Texas Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans – MMHPI – Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
Legislative UpdatesTexas Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans

Texas Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans

SUMMARY – On June 22, President and CEO Andy Keller, PhD, provided invited testimony before the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans in the wake of the tragic school shooting in Uvalde.

“It’s very important that we all keep in mind that mental illnesses, on their own, do not cause violence,” Andy told the committee. “The reason why it’s so important is there have been centuries of prejudice against people with mental illnesses that have equated mental illness with violence and perpetuated a belief among members of the public that’s still widely prevalent.”

Instead, he told them during more than an hour of testimony, the data indicates most mental illnesses are associated with comparable or lower risk of violence.

Even regarding a particular diagnosis that might make violence more likely, there is a silver lining.

“An untreated psychosis makes a person 15 times more likely to commit murder,” he said, “and the wonderful thing about that statistic is that treatment alleviates that risk.”

“These are treatable illnesses.”

Key to that, however, is ensuring support from parents and other caregivers.

“One thing that most predicts treatment failure is the lack of successful engagement of the parents and caregivers by the provider,” he said, adding that in Multisystemic Therapy (MST) the main indicator of whether a program is working or not is how much caregivers believe a young person has been helped. “It’s not just about parental consent, it’s about engaging parents … which can be hard.”

Andy spoke about the value of MST in treating young people who are more prone to violence, noting that while the legislature expanded the number of MST teams during the most recent legislative session, more are needed.

“The thing that’s so cool about these [new] programs is they’re doing it before juvenile justice involvement,” Andy told the committee. “We cannot wait until these young people are arrested. Look at the instance of the Uvalde shooter. He was never arrested, but we had lots of warning signs. He is the kind of person who exactly fits the profile of what we would see for Multisystemic Therapy.”

Which begged the question, asked by Senator Charles Perry during Q&A, as to whether intervention would have prevented the Uvalde shootings.

“The symptoms that were documented in the media, which is all I really can go on here, that were evident in the fall of 2020 … were profiles that we treat every day, and we have success in well over half-to-two-thirds of those children,” Andy said. “And the primary thing that differentiates whether we have success is whether we’re able to engage that family, and back them up and give them support.”