1999 Legislative Compendium: Mental Health

[Civil Commitment of Violent Sex Offenders | Mental Health Notes | Other Mental Health Legislation | Mental Health Near Misses ]

Despite efforts by TMA and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians to educate legislators on the science and therapeutic basis for electroconvulsive therapy, several bills were filed that would have decreased access to this life-saving psychiatric treatment. Fortunately, those bills never made it out of committee. Instead, numerous bills impacting mental health, most of them positive for medicine, were signed by the governor.

Civil Commitment of Violent Sex Offenders

An interim study under the direction of Senator Shapiro attempted to find a solution for convicted sex offenders who are allowed to re-enter society after having served their time. Senator Shapiro filed SB 29, which would have allowed for the commitment of certain sexually violent predators to the custody of TDMHMR for control, care, and treatment at a special commitment center. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice was to house or contract for the housing, and TDMHMR was to provide or contract for provision of care and treatment. Many mental health advocates, including TDMHMR, TSPP and TMA, were very concerned about the possibility of having sexually violent predators housed together with persons with mental illness. Many psychiatrists questioned the medical premise behind civil commitment of sex offenders.

Because of the hefty price tag of Senator Shapiro's original plan (somewhere in neighborhood of $19 million), a radically different version was passed as an amendment to the TDCJ sunset bill (SB 365 by Senator Brown and Representative McCall). Under this legislation, released criminals who have been determined by trial to be sexually violent predators will be required to receive outpatient treatment and be tracked using a monitoring device. This will be a joint project between TDCJ, TDMHMR, and the Texas Department of Public Safety for the tracking system. These offenders will not be allowed to be housed for any amount of time in a mental health facility, state hospital, or state school.

Mental Health Notes

SB569 prohibits health benefit plan representatives from observing mental health treatment sessions or reviewing a mental health provider's patient progress notes as a requirement for coverage of mental health services.

Other Mental Health Legislation

Other pieces of legislation relating to mental health that have made it to the governor's desk will improve access to mental health services, protect the rights and privacy of persons with mental illness or mental retardation, and improve compliance of community centers with TDMHMR rules and standards.

Mental Health Near Misses

Some bills that unfortunately did not survive the legislative meat grinder include bills that would have extended parity for mental health provisions in insurance coverage and contract terms, a bill to set up licensure for partial hospitalization facilities, and a pilot project to implement TDMHMR's Texas Medication Algorithm Project for mentally ill inmates in a state corrections facility.

Mental Health Staff Contact
Barbara James, Science and Quality: (512) 370-1412 

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