Mental Health Funding and its Effects on Juvenile Incarceration and Suicide in Texas

The effects of mental health disorders make it difficult for people of all ages to function properly at school, work and in their everyday lives (UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center). In some cases, individuals may end their lives or lose their ability to move freely and on their own terms. Obtaining mental health services can be costly for those without healthcare or for low income families. States should provide funding for children with mental health disorders, because those who go untreated might end up in jail or committing suicide. “In Texas, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10–34” (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Suicide is preventable and state funding for mental health resources should be available to stop suicide from being a major cause of death for young Texans. There is “evidence that mental health difficulties are linked directly and indirectly to later offending behavior and delinquency” (Underwood and Washington). According to the Justice Policy Institute, juvenile confinement can cost the state of Texas “$133,911 per year for one individual”. Statewide funding for children’s mental health services benefits the average Texan taxpayer’s’ wallet, because they will not be paying for a child’s detention. In 2007, during the 80th Texas Legislative session, HB1 (General Appropriations Act) was passed which granted the state $131,174,349 for mental health services for children and $82,000,000 for community mental health crisis services. The funding for mental health services goes to certain CHIP programs and funding for community mental health crisis services consist of “in-home crisis services, respite services, observation, and mobile outreach” (Texans Care for Children). Other notable actions that were to be taken using the funding consist of developing “performance measures relating to mental health crisis services, such as number of new psychiatric emergency observation sites, number of persons receiving observation, mobile outreach and children’s crisis outpatient services, mental health relapse and hospitalization rates, and criminal justice recidivism rates” (Texas Medical Association). One would hypothesize that the funding for mental health services targeted at children would decrease both the rates of Texas youths committing suicide and entering the criminal system. Contrary to the hypothesis, the findings reveal that the rates of suicide for Texans aged 5–14 increased after 2007. As expected, after the passing of HB1, the rate of juvenile detentions in Texas decreased after 2007.

Detention is defined as “any secure public or private pre‐adjudication residential facility that is used for the temporary placement of a juvenile accused of having committed an offense” (Texas Juvenile Justice Department). The link between mental health disorders and youth incarceration rates may not be obvious, but studies found in the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine help to establish the link. Youths with mental health disorders appear to be more likely to end up in detention of some sort. Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety have been documented at “higher rates… among an incarcerated versus a community sample” (Odgers, Candice L. et al.). When youths are not able to get the mental health care services they desperately need, they are more likely to fall into the criminal justice system and be detained. As seen in Figure 1, juvenile incarceration rates declined after 2007, indicating a possible causal link between money for child mental health services and juvenile detention. The statistics for figure 1 were derived from reports from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

Figure 1: Texas Juvenile Detention Rates (1997- 2014)

Suicide is defined as the killing of oneself. Mental health issues prevent children and adults alike from living happy and pain-free lives. The number of suicides committed by children ages 5–14 appears in figure 2. As stated earlier, suicide is a major leading cause of death in the state of Texas. As with other health complications, children should see healthcare professionals to ensure they are doing what they can to recover and live healthy lives, but not all Texas children have mental health care insurance or coverage. Surprisingly, the increased funding only saw two initial years of decreased youth suicide rates in Texas and then another increase in 2009. A fluctuation of rates are shown, until rates reached the highest point in the time series in 2014, according to figure 2. The data for Figure 2 was collected from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Figure 2: Texas Youth Aged 5–14 Suicides (1999–2014)

House Bill 1 granted the state of Texas $131,174,349 for mental health services for children. Clearly, the funding for children’s mental health services in the state of Texas have drastically decreased the number of youths in detention, but the number of youth suicides appears to increase. The state legislature has much to do for the children of Texas who suffer from mental health disorders and commit suicide. The funding from HB1 could be argued to be related to the decreased detention rates of youths. Perhaps funding for mental health services for children could be allocated to different programs to see a decrease in the suicide rates of Texas youth.

Works Cited

“General Appropriations Act.” House Bill №1. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Documents/GAA/General_Appropriations_Act_2008-09.pdf>.

Odgers, Candice L. et al. “Misdiagnosing the Problem: Mental Health Profiles of Incarcerated Juveniles.” The Canadian child and adolescent psychiatry review 14.1 (2005): 26–29. Print.

“State Fact Sheets — AFSP.” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <https://afsp.org/about-suicide/state-fact-sheets/#Texas>.

Texans Care for Children. “2007 Legislative Recap.” N.p., 2007. Web. 20 Apr. 2017. <https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5728d34462cd94b84dc567ed/t/579fb0ffbebafbc7ba176156/1470083328944/2007 legislative recap.pdf>.

“Texas Health Data — Deaths of Texas Residents.” Texas Department of State Health Services. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://soupfin.tdh.state.tx.us/death10.htm>.

Texas Medical Association. “2007 Legislative Compendium: Health Care Funding.” N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.

“TJJD Reports & Forms.” Texas Juvenile Justice Department . N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/publications/default.aspx#Statistical%20Reports>.

Underwood, Lee A., and Aryssa Washington. “Mental Illness and Juvenile Offenders.” Ed. Deborah Shelton. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13.2 (2016): 228. PMC. Web. 8 Apr. 2017.

“UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center.” Mental Illness — UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center — UT Harris County Psychiatric Center — UTHealth. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <https://hcpc.uth.edu/pages/wimi/mental-illness.htm>.