Texas’ Fight for Mental Health

It is reasonable for one to believe that by increasing mental health funding, inevitably the programs would benefit and prosper. The 2014–2015 Department of State Health Services allocated “$2.6 billion (All Funds) for the public mental health system,”[1] which was a significant increase over the “decade-long period of limited funding” that Texas had experienced. Currently there are “more than 4.3 million Texans, including 1.2 million children or young adults, [who] live with some form of mental health disorder. Of this number, 1.5 million Texans cannot function at work, school or in the community due to their illness.”[2] Citizens living with a mental health issue or disorder are three times more likely to die from suicide than those who do not suffer from such illnesses.[3] The mentally ill population only continues to grow causing the demand for the mental healthcare issues to be resolved quickly. At the time of this allocation, the ‘additional’ funding was seen (by the legislature and citizens) as a triumphant victory for mental health because funding was put on hold for such an extensive period of time. The government provides a majority of the funding for such services, causing these finances to be critical to the operation of most hospitals in Texas**. The legislature anticipated that this additional funding would allow those Texas hospitals to expand mental health services, while enhancing Texan’s quality of life overall.

Figure 1.

Mental health issues, more specifically suicide is amongst the highest leading causes of death in teens, in the United States, accounting for 11% of all United States teen deaths. The Health Status of Texas reported that although Texas lies just under the national average of teen suicide, Texas numbers are still relatively high to other states with the lowest rates, and could be improved. Although the difference in funding is not the only changing factor between states, it is a controllable factor. Texas has the ability allocate even more additional funding for mental health issues.

Figure 2.

Mental Health America ranks Texas 35th amongst the other states, based on prevalence of mental illness in the youth population and rates of access to care. Minnesota, South Dakota and Connecticut top the list by having the smallest population of mentally ill youth while offering the most access to mental health care. Illustrated in Figure 2., Texas spends significantly less per patient than these states. Each of these three states have better teen suicide rates than Texas. Mental Health America reports that Arkansas has the highest prevalence of mental health issues within their youth population. As shown in Figure 2., Texas spends nearly the same amount of money per patient as Arizona, the lowest ranking US state.

Figure 3.
Figure 5.

Although Texas’ teen suicide rate does lie below the national average rate, there is still room for improvement. In general, Texas spends significantly less than most other states on mental health even with the allocation of additional funds in 2014–2015. This shows that although Texas Mental Health systems were extremely grateful to finally see an increase in their funding, it still left them just at, or right below, the country’s average on spending per capita for mental health issues. This implies that Texas is still not allocating enough funds to mental health, even with the recent increase. Consistently, states with better mental health systems are spending more money than Texas per patient allowing them to treat more patients with better care. As Texas’ Senate Committee on Health and Human Services stated in their report, “Despite this increase in funding, there are still significant mental health needs in our state that must be addressed involving capacity and access to services, service delivery, outcomes and costly infrastructure within our state hospital system.”[4]

Figure 6.

In the beginning, the allocation of this additional funding was thought to be a true saving grace for Texas Mental Health and although it did not exhibit true progress in Texas’ fight against mental health issues, Texas can still be proud of the improvements that were made. Many hospitals were able to restock supplies, hire more doctors and nurses and fix the current living standards in the 10 Mental Health Services hospitals located in Texas. With the addition of obtaining additional beds allowing them to see more patients, Texas has managed to hold their rankings amongst the states. Mental Health America reported New Mexico jumping from 44th to 22nd between 2010–2016, figure 100 show the difference between New Mexico’s funding and Texas’ funding over the last several years. The 2014–2015 funds were given and spent on bringing Texas’ mental health programs back to satisfactory operating levels which does help Texas’ mental health issue, mildly. However, I believe that if we continue to allocate additional funding the way New Mexico has funded, we will see actual improvement in the quality of care Texas Mental Health System services provide to Texans every day.

Footnotes:

[1] 21, 2013 October. Sizing Up the 2014–15 Texas Budget: Mental Health (n.d.): n. pag. Www.forabettertexas.org. Web. <http://forabettertexas.org/images/2013_10__PP_Budget_MentalHealth.pdf>.
[2] “Mental Health Funding.” Mental Health Funding. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <https://www.texmed.org/template.aspx?id=6491>.
[3] University of Washington School of Social Work. “Fact Sheets.” Facts About Mental Illness and Suicide — Mental Health Reporting — UW School of Social Work. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 March 2017.
[4] Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, Interim Report to the 83rd Legislature, 09 Mar. 2017, p. 96.