Texas 84th Legislative Session Summary for Mental Health-Related Legislation
The 84th legislative session ended with both significant achievements and missed opportunities for Texans with mental health concerns. Overall, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) behavioral health budget increased by approximately $87 million and included both increases and decreases in individual budget strategies (see table below). One of the most noticeable changes was the decision to discontinue funding of the NorthSTAR Behavioral Health Program. NorthSTAR currently serves thousands of individuals in the Dallas area for both mental health and chemical dependency treatment in a behavioral health “carve-out model” of service delivery.1 Medicaid eligible individuals in the NorthSTAR program will transition to the state integrated managed care system – STAR and STAR+Plus.
The Texas sunset agency review process played a significant role in legislative action relating to health and human services. The Sunset Advisory Commission recommended consolidation of the health and human services (HHS) enterprise after a two-year in-depth review of the agency’s inner structure, strategies, and outcomes.2 The Sunset Commission also recommended large structural changes in the entities under the HHS umbrella, including the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS).3
Although the two-year review of the agencies was complete before the beginning of the session, many of the Sunset recommendations continued to be heavily debated by legislators. Many advocates, legislators, stakeholders, and those receiving services from HHS remain concerned with how further consolidation of the agencies will affect the provision of needed public health and social services during the upcoming transition years and beyond.
No legislative action was taken to expand access to Medicaid, which could increase access to needed behavioral health care for Texans living with mental illness. A recent Gallup poll shows that Texas is the only state in the nation with an uninsured rate above 20%.5.
The document contains a summary of key mental health and substance use related legislation considered during the 84th legislative session. Due to the extensive legislation filed in response to the Sunset Commission recommendations, Sunset-related bills are included in a separate summary, Appendix A.
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