New mental health policy developments to impact the Texas Panhandle
This news clip and accompanying article were published by KFDA News Channel 10 on September 27, 2023.
AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) -The 88th legislative session in Texas marked a historic moment for mental health funding.
According to Nelson Jarrin, Senior Vice President of State Policy at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, the Texas Legislature allocated $11.7 billion for behavioral health this session.
This is the largest investment in mental health funding in U.S. history, according to Jarrin.
Notably, a significant portion of these funds is being directed toward mental health facilities, including a new hospital in Amarillo.
“Our oldest state hospital was opened in 1861 in Austin, so when you think about legacy projects that are going to be around for decades and provide treatment to numerous families into this community, that’s one of those legacy projects that’s going to happen here,”Nelson Jarrin, JD – Senior Vice President of State Policy
Jarrin believes this hospital will have a lasting impact as there’s currently no similar resource in the region.
“I don’t want to say that a hospital is where people should be receiving their treatment, because ultimately a person who ends up in a hospital has gone downhill and to a point where they’re in crisis, and then they need that level of treatment. So my hope is that the hospital is a flagship marker here, but there’s a lot of other community supports and efforts that complement that and ultimately over the long run, keep people out of that hospital,” says Jarrin.
The state is also continuing its investments in children’s mental health and intensive services in communities, aiming to keep those who need services out of more expensive care settings and deliver care when and where it’s needed.
Beyond local communities, this funding addresses the issue of overcrowded jails across Texas, especially in the Panhandle, where individuals with mental health issues are a significant factor in overcrowding.
“We don’t have jails full of criminals because of burglary or things like that. We’ve got people in jails that are filling them because of mental health and we can’t find a bed in Texas to get them to,” explains Dave Clark, on the Leadership Committee for Panhandle Behavioral Health Alliance.
Lastly, this funding extends to school safety, with the state implementing measures to enhance security and recognize students and families facing trauma, all aimed at preventing tragic incidents.
“We should think of our mental health or our brain just like we do any other health condition. That’s part of erasing the stigma one, but also because that’s how you become a productive citizen. That’s how if you’re a child, that you do well in school, and so we need healthy, productive citizens in Texas to be able to lead us into the future,” says Jarrrin.
Overall, this historic investment in mental health funding has far-reaching implications, not only for local communities but also for the overall well-being and safety of Texas residents.