The state’s legislative session is in full swing and recommendations from the Sunset Commission are rolling out. As anticipated, our mental health system is a heated topic. In the past, a lack of mental health understanding and education hindered efforts for program and policy change. But, many of us are no longer ensnared by dated stigmas and recognize mental illness for what it is: a serious, real, medical condition.
We’ve learned as a society that mental health tragedies, such as those we see in our schools and on the news, are preventable. Our health care providers and law enforcement personnel struggle to keep up with the aftermath of mental health events resulting from illnesses that should be addressed in a treatment setting, not in our emergency rooms and over-crowded jails. And as it turns out, properly funded and accessible treatment options are the most cost-effective option.
At the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, it’s our mission to identify and encourage the implementation of mental health policies and practices that enable Texans to get help when and where they need it. A critical step toward this mission begins with understanding the current mental health landscape in Texas. We recently conducted a survey among randomly selected Texas voters that measured mental health awareness and knowledge. We wanted to gauge if more or less attention and spending should be directed toward mental health needs. And, we sought to measure the correlation of attitudinal statements on the level of consideration and resources that should be directed toward mental health issues.
The survey results revealed notable progress, and hopefully indicate the beginning of a new era for mental health in Texas.
Texas Mental Health Landscape Survey Key Findings:
- Mental health issues have impacted more than 50 percent of all Texans surveyed, either at home or at work.
- 76 percent of Texans have a friend or family member that has experienced a mental health issue.
- 67 percent of Texans (and a majority of every political subgroup) believe that more state and local dollars should be spent addressing mental health.
- 31 percent of Texans would not know where to go if they or a family member needed help with a mental health condition.
- 33 percent of Texans would consider a career as a mental health professional.
I believe that Texans deserve behavioral health care that is accessible, understandable, efficient, and effective. The State and its agencies need to be accountable to taxpayers for the performance of our behavioral health systems. We’ve got to hold our local mental health providers and systems accountable and ensure they have the flexibility to work collaboratively to help Texans in need. Performance evaluations of our provider systems must be continuous, outcome-focused and data-driven. And, we must support and encourage our skilled behavioral health workforce and develop this essential team to improve the wellness of Texans.