Proposal hopes to get doctors to focus on child mental health

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A major mental health policy proposal in the Texas legislature cleared a key panel of lawmakers and will now head to the full Senate.

Senate Bill 10, authored by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, is likely to pass the upper chamber, as all 31 Senators are sponsors of the bill.

SB 10 would create a Texas Mental Health Care Consortium, an interdisciplinary panel with university healthcare experts, who will steer state policy on mental health.

Senate staff writes the Consortium hopes to tackle “workforce shortages” in particular among child psychiatrists. 

One aspect of the consortium’s work would be to identify mental health providers in a specific area of Texas and with that provider, train and provide services for pediatricians and primary care doctors – known as the Child Psychiatry Access Network. The reason? Child psychiatrists are rare in Texas and most children are seen by their primary care doctors. 

Central Texas Pediatrician Nhung Tran supports the idea of getting doctors access to tools that help diagnose basic mental issues. 

“We providers, like pediatricians, can really start helping the children right in the office if we feel like we have the support and access to psychiatric, psychological and social work expertise,” said Tran at the Senate hearing on the bill.

SB 10 passed the Senate Health and Human Services Commission on February 12. 

The bill would also establish mental health “hubs” at health institutions for mental health professionals, allow youth to be screened for mental health conditions through telemedicine, increase residency slots for psychiatry students and direct judges to be educated about local mental health resources.

It’s expected to pass the Senate and will then need to pass the Texas House and be signed by Governor Greg Abbott. 

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