Mental Health

Last month, the Speaker of the House announced the creation of the House Select Committee on Mental Health, appointing thirteen lawmakers to address a complex issue that touches every Texan in one way or another. As the only Tarrant County legislator on this committee, I look forward to the opportunity to better understand our community’s concerns on this topic and share them with my colleagues in the Legislature.

Beginning early next year, the Committee will start to take a serious look at current mental health and substance abuse services and how state agencies, in partnership with local governments and other entities, can collaborate to address critical needs across our state.

My staff and I have recently spent a great deal of time learning about what state agencies, local governments, first responders, school districts, non-profits, and others are doing to address mental health care. We’ve learned a lot already but know that we’ve just scratched the surface of this very complicated issue.

There’s a few things I am already certain of, though – mental health issues do not discriminate, every Texan is impacted and there are not enough resources to offer adequate support to those in need.

It’s also apparent that early intervention is needed as a key component to addressing many of the issues associated with chronic mental health issues, including incarceration, homelessness and drug use.

Here’s a sobering statistic shared by Texans Care for Children — one half of chronic mental illness begins by age 14 and 75 percent begins by age 24. With that in mind, it’s critical that we focus attention on access to services in our schools, colleges and universities. Doing so is an important step in addressing the long-term impact of mental health issues, and may help reduce the number of Texans in our prisons and jails and the number of our homeless neighbors on the street.

In addition, we must also take a hard look at mental health services for our veterans. As you know, improving access to veterans’ services is an important issue to me. With Texas being home to the second-largest veterans population in the country, many of whom are combat veterans, addressing mental health care for our veterans is critical. It is one reason why I passed the measure to create the Veterans Cash lottery ticket, which, in just six years, has raised over $50 million for services for veterans and their families, including funding for critical mental health and PTSD care.

Daily, our local law enforcement and fire departments see the need for additional mental health services in our communities. Often, they are the ones called upon during mental health crises. We must listen to our first responders to better understand the challenges they face, especially in terms of finding mental health treatment services and care for those in need.

I could go on. There’s so many areas that need to be studied and addressed. So many people who need care.

This post is in part about providing information, but also to seek your help. As we continue to study mental health, I would like to hear from you. I want to get your thoughts on the state of our mental health care system; to hear about what you think is working and what is not, and to share any personal experience or anecdote which you think may be helpful.

Send me a message at chris.turner@house.state.tx.us.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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