Policy UpdatesTexas Senate Committee on Health & Human Services – SB 292

Texas Senate Committee on Health & Human Services – SB 292

On March 29, 2017, MMHPI President and CEO Andy Keller, PhD, was invited testimony at the Texas Senate Committee on Health & Human Services. Senate Bill 292, relating to the creation of grant programs to reduce recidivism, arrest, and incarceration of individuals with mental illness, was authored by Senators Joan Huffman, Jane Nelson and Charles Schwertner. 

$461 million

jail costs for individuals with mental illness

$965 million

psychiatric emergency department costs

74 days

average length of stay in Texas state hospitals

Dr. Keller’s presentation to the committee included highlights of previous successful collaborative programs passed by the Texas Legislature

  • 83 (R) SB 58 Healthy Communities Homeless Collaboratives
  • 83 (R) SB 1185 Harris County Jail Diversion Pilot
  • 84 (R) SB 55 Texas Veterans + Family Alliance

Dr. Keller also laid out the cost of unmet mental health needs in emergency departments and jails, including total costs to Texas local governments.

He finished by providing an example of a countywide planning project in Dallas County in progress with the plan to reduce (and eventually eliminate) the use of the Dallas County jail for treating people who primarily have mental health needs through three points of system transformation:

  1. Front-end diversion with first responders to prevent people with mental illness from entering (or re-entering) the justice system;
  2. Improved practice within the justice system; and
  3. Enhanced services in the community to keep people at highest risk of justice system entry/re-entry in care rather than in jail.