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Texas legislature should put mental health funding first during pandemic

When the Texas Legislature convenes in January, there will be no shortage of coronavirus-related issues demanding action, from the many hours of lost instructional time for our students to a surge in Texans who have lost their businesses or their paychecks. Also at the top of the list for urgent legislative action should be meeting our increasingly dire behavioral health needs.

Even before the pandemic, Texas, like other states, was facing serious challenges in providing the mental health care we need. Suicide rates were at record levels, ranking as the nation’s second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults. In 2018, over 3,800 Texans died from suicide and over 7,000 died from substance-related deaths.

These struggles will not wane quickly. As the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute warned in a recent analysis, “Rates of mental illness more broadly 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-emotional impact on children who have been separated from classmates and teachers, including the teachers who are often the first to notice when a child has been abused at home.

Read the full opinion from former Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus in the Houston Chronicle