TRANSPARENCIES

A monthly newsletter from Integral Care.

December: Looking ahead to the 86th Texas Legislature

 

A Message From Our CEO

 

The 86th Texas Legislature is right around the corner – set to begin January 8th. In gearing up for this session, I’d like to take a look at some of the valuable legislation that came out of the 85th session, progress made during the year and a half interim, and the anticipated issue areas coming up in January.

 

A Roundup of the 85th Legislature’s Mental Health-Related Bills:

State Bill (SB) 1849, also known as the Sandra Bland Act, revised laws on identifying and screening an arrestee who may have a mental illness or an intellectual disability, as well as diversion to treatment by law enforcement. This bill included $1 million to improve inmate safety in our county jails.

SB 292 created a grant program to reduce recidivism, arrest and incarceration of individuals with mental illness. Integral Care secured a $2.5M grant through SB 292 this past January to create a Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) Team. FACT serves people with mental illness who are caught in a cycle of emergency room visits, law enforcement encounters and incarceration.

House Bill (HB) 13 created a matching grant program to support community mental health programs.  Integral Care secured $500,000 annually to provide school-based mental health services.

 

Read more in our program highlight about how SB 292 and HB 13 have been instrumental in increasing access to mental health services for our community.

 

Landmark Federal Legislation in the Interim:
Landmark federal legislation has passed since the close of the 85th session.

H.R.6 – Support for Patients and Communities Act includes $1.9 billion for a Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant to improve publicly-funded prevention and treatment systems.

The Family First Act aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skill training.

 

Interim Texas Legislative Charges Related to Mental Health:
During the year and a half interim period, various House and Senate committees have examined a wide range of critical issues. Integral Care has been following interim committees closely and submitting comment on a number of these topics.

The House Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse discussed in-depth the impact of substance use disorders on individuals involved in the Child Protective Services system, prescription monitoring, integration of care for co-occurring disorders and the opioid epidemic.

Other focused issue areas included maternal mortality and substance use, community-based care, the need to increase the mental health workforce, behavioral health needs for individuals involved in the criminal justice system, housing instability and homelessness.

Policy Training with Representative Donna Howard, Muna Javaid from Integral Care and other legislative experts, hosted by the Central Health Equity Policy Council

 

School safety was a major issue this interim, including Governor Abbott’s School and Firearm Safety Action Plan. The plan calls for improving mental and behavioral health systems in our schools, with a focus on increasing Mental Health First Aid, providing schools with behavioral threat assessment programs, and expanding school-based counseling resources.

 

Pre-filing of bills for the 86th session began in early November, with 461 bills filed by the end of the first day. In preparation for this session, Integral Care has compiled a list of 14 legislative priorities. Take a look at the list here. We look forward to working with our legislators – both returning and newly elected – to continue to strengthen access to services that support healthy living for everyone in Texas.

 

David Evans

Chief Executive Officer

Program Highlight

85th Legislature Funded Critical Programs

 

Two bills passed during the 85th Texas Legislature marked watershed moments for mental health support in our state. Senate Bill 292 allowed Integral Care, Travis County Sheriff’s Office, Downtown Austin Community Court, Austin Police Department and Central Health to secure funding for a collaborative effort – a Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) Team. The team serves individuals who have extensive criminal justice involvement as well as recurring and lengthy inpatient mental health hospitalizations or crisis episodes, most of whom are living homeless in our community.

Launched on April 1, the FACT Team offers intensive wrap-around services to support recovery. FACT has capacity for 90 individuals, including permanent supportive housing for 60. In its first 8 months, the team reports seeing success with clients. One client, who had been unable to remain voluntarily in any treatment setting and had lost multiple housing opportunities due to the severity of her symptoms, has now completed 3 weeks at a transitional living facility and is rebuilding a relationship with her children. The team has made an impact in the outcome of her legal cases as well, by coordinating and collaborating closely with attorneys, the District Attorney’s Office and judges.

 

Texas House Bill 13 allowed Integral Care to secure $500,000 annually for on-campus mental health services to improve access for children and youth.  This school year, we added more psychiatric services and therapists in Manor, Del Valle and Pflugerville Independent School Districts (ISDs), and a triage therapist in Manor and Del Valle. Triage therapists provide crisis prevention and intervention as well as mental health training for school staff. HB 13 is also helping Integral Care provide ongoing mental health services in 16 Austin ISD schools.

 

Representative Four Price introduced and sponsored HB 13 as well as being a primary sponsor of Senator Joan Huffman’s SB 292. We thank both legislators for their commitment to reducing barriers to care and giving more people the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Partner Highlight

Our Representatives-Elect

 

We welcome two new faces representing Travis County at the state capitol this session – Representatives-Elect Sheryl Cole and Vikki Goodwin.

 

Goodwin, from District 47, is the owner of a local real estate firm. She has worked as a systems analyst with the Attorney General’s Office and owned a small business, Kids@PC, which taught children computer skills. She has experience working with the Austin Independent School District, as a member of AISD UpClose and co-chair of the AISD Strategic Plan Task Force.

 

Some of her policy priorities are repairing the school finance system (and not allocating public dollars to private schools), stringent oversight of the CPS and foster care systems (and ensuring children have appropriate primary health, mental health, and support services), and Medicaid expansion (including mental health care and therapies for children with disabilities).

 

Cole, from District 46, is an accountant and attorney, who spent 8 years on Austin’s City Council.  As a councilmember, she successfully pushed for affordable housing, marriage equality, increased transparency and controls to bring equal pay to women and minorities, and “banning the box” (the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance, which prohibits most employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history or doing a background check until after making a conditional offer of employment).

 

Going into the 86th Legislature, some of her policy priorities are affordable housing, more funding for community policing, more funding for mental health care, Medicaid expansion, and the legalization of marijuana (with tax revenue flowing toward education, infrastructure and health care).

 

We look forward to working with Representatives-Elect Cole and Goodwin to improve access to mental health supports across our community. They join a strong group of leaders that make up our Travis County delegation. We are thrilled to continue working with Representatives Howard, Israel, Hinajosa, and Rodriguez as well as Senators Watson, Zaffarini, Campbell and Buckingham.

Archive

December: Looking ahead to the 86th Texas Legislature

November: How Tech is Changing the Face of Mental Health

October: A Few Questions Could Help Save a Life

September: Anyone Can Save a Life

August: A Milestone Moment

July: Equity in Mental Health Care for All

June: Expanding Services for Veterans

May: Your Mental Health Toolkit

April: Time of Terror Calls for Increased Emotional Support

March: Stopping the cycle of incarceration for individuals with mental illness

February : Equity in mental healthcare for everyone

January : Improving Mental Health Through Partnership & Collaboration

December : Strength Through Community

November : Healthy Lifestyles Improve Well-Being

October : National Child Health Day

September : Strengthening Families and Communities