Senate needs to carry mental health reform torch


Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, champions mental health care reform, filing around 20 bills on the subject.
Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, champions mental health care reform, filing around 20 bills on the subject. AP

It’s been a long time coming.

Before the legislative session even began, a mental health select committee put together an extensive report on what needs to change in the state’s mental health care system.

Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, has championed mental health care reform, and the House has allocated a significant amount of funding to foot the bill.

Price filed around 20 bills dealing with mental health, with four heavy-hitters. House Bill 10 would strengthen state mental health parity laws. House Bill 12 creates diversion programs for criminal offenders while boosting defendants’ mental health rights while detained. House Bill 13 provides grants for community-based mental health programs.

These bills have already passed the House and are moving along in the Senate. But the fourth bill, House Bill 11 on education, is cutting it close to the deadline for House passage.

Thursday is the cutoff for local house bills to be considered for a second reading, and though HB 11 is on the calendar for Wednesday, that agenda list is extremely long.

House members should focus on getting this bill across the goal line.

HB 11 would create a better early intervention structure for students dealing with mental health issues. Not only would it require school districts to provide mental health resources, but it would also give educators the tools needed to better counsel students.

Almost 50 percent of all mental health issues manifest by age 14, and giving school districts better resources and education to handle these issues builds a safer environment for students and educators.

This bill is too important to let die.

Once the House passes HB 11, and possibly any of Price’s other smaller mental health bills, senators should keep up the momentum of mental health care reform.

An update to the state’s antiquated mental health care system is sorely needed, and House members have carved out feasible ways to do it.

It would be a significant disservice to Texans if senators drop the ball on this well-executed approach for mental health care reform.