Mental Health Funding

More than 4.3 million Texans, including 1.2 million children, live with some form of mental health disorder. Of these, 1.5 million cannot function at work, school, or in the community due to their illness. Over the past decade, reduced state funding eroded Texas' ability to care for patients with mental disorders. As the availability of services declined, these patients, insured and uninsured alike, had to seek care in hospital emergency rooms. Texas' prison system also warehouses mentally ill patients who are waiting for a psychiatric bed or community help to become available.

The economic impact of mental illness on the state and local governments is more than $1.5 billion per year. Each person repeatedly jailed, hospitalized, or admitted to a detoxification center can cost the state an estimated $55,000 per year.

In 2007, legislators invested $82 million to redesign the state's mental health crisis system. Even though the new funds only represent about 5 percent of local mental health authorities' (LMHAs') budgets, it was a much-needed boost. LMHAs were directed to use the funds to support 24/7 crisis hotlines and mobile crisis outreach teams to respond to crises at schools, homes, or other settings. Other services that LMHAs may develop include expanded outpatient services, extended observation services (up to 48 hours), 14-day crisis stabilization units, and coverage of costs incurred by local law enforcement transporting patients with behavioral health needs.

Congress passed legislation in 2008 that requires group health plans with 51 or more employees to treat mental health disorders the same as other medical conditions. Mental health parity in health coverage is an important step. However, much more is needed to ensure Texans with mental health disorders receive the care they need.

Medicine's 2009 Agenda

  • Support funding to expand the availability of community-based mental health care for adults and children, including prevention and early intervention.
  • Support funding to sustain and expand state investments to redesign mental health crisis services.

Medicine's Message

  • Texas ranks 49th in the nation for the amount it spends per person for mental health care. Inadequate state funding puts the burden on local resources, and leads to increased rates of incarceration and higher use of public hospital emergency rooms, homeless shelters, and the foster care system.