As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I sincerely hope that every Texan will take a moment this Veterans Day to thank our veterans for their important service and let military families know they have our support.
More than 1.7 million veterans call Texas home, and we are working on several fronts to meet their needs. That includes a new grant program designed to help veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and other mental health challenges.
The 84th Legislature overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 55, which I authored to create the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance.
This new and innovative program within the Health and Human Services Commission will support mental health services and treatment provided by local communities to veterans and military families.
The Texas Veterans + Family Alliance was funded with $20 million appropriated by the Texas Legislature, which will be matched by local and private funds for a total of $40 million in mental health support for veterans and their families.
While Texas already has several programs to help veterans, this one is truly unique because it allows the state to partner with the private sector to tailor mental health programs that will meet the specific treatment needs of each community.
Most importantly, we will be helping our fighting men and women heal from the psychological wounds of war — which is the ultimate goal of Senate Bill 55.
Texas Veterans + Family Alliance is beginning with a pilot phase funded by $1 million in state money and $1 million in local and private support.
The program will focus on community collaborations addressing the mental health needs of veterans and their families that are not currently being met.
Projects funded by the pilot grant program will be selected through a competitive statewide request-for-proposal process. The objective is to award funding to programs throughout Texas. Decisions on successful applicants for the pilot phase are slated to be complete by early 2016.
Through Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, Texas is not only leveraging community collaborations and private funds, it is partnering with a pilot program administrator, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, who will work with organizations to identify matching funds for the pilot project.
The fundamental commitment of Texas Veterans + Family Alliance is to bring communities together to fill the unmet mental health needs of Texas veterans and military families so they have access to the services they need, when they need them.
Access to effective mental health care is a crucial issue for all Texans, but we owe a special debt to our veterans and their families, particularly those who have dutifully served us in combat.
I am thankful we have Texas Veterans + Family Alliance as a tool to assure veterans have the support they need to navigate and attain adequate mental health care.
Our service men and women deserve nothing less. The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute has more information about the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance on its website.
State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton counties. She is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.