topics In The News Here’s how Texas must prepare for long battle with COVID-19 mental health issues

Here’s how Texas must prepare for long battle with COVID-19 mental health issues

The devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on mental health in our country — from anxiety to depression to suicide — will require a robust response from federal, state and local officials.

As the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas has reminded us, this pandemic is not going away any time soon; as we struggle to get cases under control, the impact on mental health likely increases.

Even if we were to see a sudden decrease in positive tests, the effects on our mental health would continue. As the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute warned in a recent analysis, rates of mental illness are likely to increase over time, given that most mental-health impacts of trauma manifest 60 to 90 days following exposure to traumatic events.

And importantly, experts warn of the social and emotional effect on children who have been separated from classmates and teachers, including the very educators who are often the first to notice when a child has been abused at home.

The response we need to the ongoing challenge in mental health will require both resources and innovation. Fortunately, this is not a partisan issue. During my time as speaker of the Texas House and since I left that office almost two years ago, mental health has been one of our state’s greatest areas of bipartisan achievement and advancement.

Our state, hardly known for profligate spending, has expanded access to services, began construction on state-of-the-art mental health facilities, advanced telemedicine and ensured that health plans treat mental health conditions on par with any other health condition. Last year, the Legislature made targeted advancements in mental-health services at schools, which will prove especially critical in the months ahead.

Read the full opinion by Former Speaker Joe Straus in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.