Texas House Committee on Human Services – HB 1571 - MMHPI - Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
Legislative UpdatesTexas House Committee on Human Services – HB 1571

Texas House Committee on Human Services – HB 1571

SUMMARY – On March 28, Chief Clinical Officer Hani Talebi, PhD, provided invited testimony before the House Committee on Human Services in support of HB 1571. HB 1571, by Representative J.M. Lozano, would allow schools to obtain reimbursement through the School Health and Related Services (SHARS) program for certain health-related services.

As Talebi testified, Texas schools are currently providing mental health services through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, administered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last tranche of ESSER funding is set to expire in September 2024; yet the pandemic’s significant and negative mental health impacts will last for years to come.

“Parents and educators alike understand that our students cannot make appropriate progress when they are not well,” Talebi said to the committee. “Even before COVID-19, mental illness among American youth was already at a crisis point.”

With mental health concerns among youth increasing across the nation, Talebi testified, the end of ESSER funding presents an issue for Texas schools. The option of reimbursement through the SHARS program, an existing state mechanism allowing school districts to request reimbursement for certain health-related services, is currently limited in Texas to students with disabilities.

HB 1571 presents an opportunity for Texas to mitigate the end of ESSER funding by upgrading the SHARS program so school districts in our state can access federal funding and continue providing critical services, at no cost to the state.

Many states throughout the U.S. have already updated state policies to align with federal guidance, Talebi concluded. Texas has the opportunity to do the same, “the Texas way,” and continue supporting the health and wellbeing of students through this legislation.