AUSTIN (KXAN) - Last week's school shooting in Connecticut has focused attention across the nation on mental illness. When it comes to money for treatment, Texas ranks last, as published in a recent report by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.
The report cites a June 2011 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation saying Texas has fallen to 51st place (including Washington, D.C.) in per capita funding for mental health services.
"Social services for mental health are almost nonexistent in Texas," said Thor Harris, as he began hammering away at his xylophone.
Clinical depression is something that has haunted this working artist most of his life. Counseling and anti-depressants are things he cannot afford on his own, so he relies on the SIMS Foundation in Austin for help with his mental health needs.
"I haven't had insurance since the early 90s, and even then it was just appalling and unaffordable," Harris said. "Having access to counselors and psychiatric care is huge."
But that access could be in danger for many of the near half-million Texans living with mental illness. Ahead of the legislative session beginning next month, the state is recommending a $2.1 million cut to Community Mental Health services for adults. That is on top of the $24.8 million in cuts from the last session.
"(These are things like) medication management, counseling services, even some crisis resolution services," said Katharine Ligon with the Center for Public Policy Priorities .
Ligon's group is partnering with local entities like law enforcement and jails that deal with mental illness on a daily basis. She said this move is perhaps the best way to appeal to Texas lawmakers who will soon set the state's budget for the next two years.
"We need the allocations from the state to be able to support our services locally," she said.
Other groups say those allocations could be spent more efficiently. The Texas Public Policy Foundation has said the state could benefit from reforms like increased privatization to lower costs but increase quality of care.
Lucky for Harris, SIMS is not expecting its own cuts. But he said he can only imagine his struggle if he did not have that support.
"(We) really need to talk about access to mental health care," he said.
CPPP said the national average for state spending on mental health services is $109 dollars per capita. Texas spends $36.
To understand the need for funding, consider these figures from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
- One in four U.S. adults experiences a diagnosable mental illness annually.
- Six percent have a serious mental illness.
- One in five children in the U.S. has a diagnosable mental health disorder.
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