Interim Legislative Committees Will Study Mental Health Topics
March 1, 2010
By Colleen Horton
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker of the House Joe Straus have released interim legislative charges for the Texas Senate and House. These directives identify the issues that legislative committees will study in the coming months in preparation for the 82nd legislative session, which begins in January 2011.
A number of state and house committees will study issues that address behavioral health. Some charges will address mental health needs directly; others will address behavioral health through the context of other issues. Each committee will gather information, hold public hearings, analyze data and develop recommendations. Many of the recommendations will evolve into legislative proposals that will be considered during the session.
Interim charges offer a unique opportunity for the Hogg Foundation, mental health consumers, family members and advocates to raise awareness of the benefits of improving access to quality mental health services for children and adults. An estimated one in five Texas children and adults experience mental health challenges. Educating policy makers is the first step in garnering the support needed to improve opportunities for recovery.
Before and during the next session, Hogg Foundation staff will meet with committee staff, monitor hearings, offer the foundation's expertise as a resource and provide technical assistance as needed. Following are some of the priority interim charges that Hogg Foundation staff will follow.
- Review the detention of juvenile offenders in local jails, state jails and state prison units by examining confinement conditions, including quality of education, mental health treatment and medical services, rehabilitative treatment, and equality of access to services for young female inmates. Review access to administrative and inspector general grievances in Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice facilities. Make recommendations to improve the system and reduce recidivism of juvenile offenders.
- Assess how state agencies work together to identify defendants with mental health issues, notify magistrates of identified defendants, and providing crisis stabilization services to defendants. Monitor legislation passed by the 81st Legislature related to mental illness and make recommendations to improve mental health services and reduce recidivism.
- Study the effectiveness of Texas school districts' special education programs. Review the range of needs of special education students and districts' ability to provide an appropriate education for these students. Assess the effectiveness of currently funded special education programs. Recommend improvements.
Health & Human Services
- Study the benefits, efficiencies, costs and effectiveness of social service prevention and early intervention programs at government agencies with programs that address mental illness, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, single-parent families, absentee fathers, early pregnancy and unemployment. Study other states' prevention programs and efforts to administer these programs through a merged prevention department. Recommend improvements to these programs' efficiency and effectiveness.
- Study the type, duration, frequency and effectiveness of mental health services for abused and neglected Texas children. Recommend strategies to address the impact of trauma and enhance therapeutic services for this population in an effort to eliminate the cycle of abuse and neglect.
- Study how increased out-of-pocket costs for medications and treatment impact consumers' compliance with health care recommendations and how that response impacts overall health care costs. Review available research on value design programs.
Veterans' Affairs and Military Installations
- Examine potential risk factors for returning service members that may contribute to increased domestic violence and child abuse cases. Determine best practices, including funding options, to ensure that counseling related to these risk factors is made available for returning service members and their families during the initial reunion phase.
- Study cost and caseload trends in the Texas Medicaid Program, including a review of cost drivers, factors affecting caseload increases and regional variations. Evaluate the effectiveness of current Medicaid cost containment procedures and recommend legislative changes to contain and control state costs and maximize federal funding without impacting services.
- Examine the implementation of diversion pilot programs, the juvenile case management system and other policy and funding initiatives to determine if the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and the Texas Youth Commission have adhered to legislative directives in implementing these programs, and the impact of these programs on commitments at the Texas Youth Commission.
Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence
- Monitor the implementation of SB 1940, which established veterans court programs in Texas, and examine the link between combat stress disorders of war veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and onset of criminal behavior.
Committee on Urban Affairs
- Make recommendations regarding the feasibility of a housing initiative that promotes independence and prevents unnecessary institutionalization of eligible populations.
Colleen Horton is a program officer at the Hogg Foundation.