Policy UpdatesTexas House Committee on Defense & Veterans’ Affairs – Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Veterans and their Families

Texas House Committee on Defense & Veterans’ Affairs – Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Veterans and their Families

On February 19, 2019, Kyle Mitchell, JD, MMHPI Senior Director of Veteran and Military Policy, was invited testimony at the Texas House Committee on Defense & Veterans’ Affairs. During his presentation, Mr. Mitchell discussed “Improving How Texas Meets the Mental Health Needs of Veterans and Their Families.”

235,000

estimate of the total number of male and female Texas veterans with mental illness in 2018*

1.8x

the rate at which female veterans die from suicide, compared with non-veteran women*

18-34

the age of male veterans that experience the highest rate of suicide*

6.3-6.5%

estimate of Texas veterans experiencing alcohol use disorder in 2018*

*as of date of testimony

In the course of his testimony, Mr. Mitchell provided baseline statistics from 2018 with estimates of total number and percentage of the population of Texas veterans with mental illness and substance use disorder. He also provided insights from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on its most recent analysis of veteran suicide data. Those insights included:

  • Suicide rates increased for both veterans and non-veterans, underscoring the fact that suicide is a national public health concern that affects people everywhere.
  • The average number of veterans who died by suicide each day remained unchanged at 20.
  • The suicide rate increased faster among veterans who had not recently used Veterans Health Administration health care than among those who had.

Mr. Mitchell also addressed previous efforts by the Texas Legislature to address veterans mental health needs through peer services and community grants such as:

  • 81(R) SB 1325 (Nelson) which established the Mental Health Program for Veterans to provide peer-to-peer counseling to service members, veterans, and their families through contracts with local mental health authorities (LMHAs), local behavioral health authorities (LBHAs), and the Texas A&M University Health Science Center (TAMUHSC).
  • 85(R) SB 27 (Campbell) which expanded the Mental Health Program for Veterans, focusing on the “peer service” nature of services
  • 84(R) SB 55 (Nelson) which directed HHSC to establish a grant program to support community mental health programs that provide and coordinate mental health services and treatment for Texas veterans and their families.

Mr. Mitchell provided examples of past legislative successes in action – highlighting the philanthropic work of the Stephen A. Cohen Military Family Clinics in Texas. Veteran “one-stops” currently operate in El Paso, West Texas, Waco, and Central Texas, having served 4,400 clients.