(Austin/San Antonio, TX) - State Representative Ruth Jones McClendon, San Antonio-District 120, has filed House Bill 205, which would set minimum requirements for allocating funds and improve the availability of mental health beds provided by the state. She explained the potential fiscal impact of the bill: "We could optimize the revenue of state and local government authorities by taking a more proactive approach to mental health treatment and diagnosis, instead of allowing the jails to become our mental health centers, which increases costs. Until Texas improves its approach to mental health programs and funding, it is crucial to have sufficient beds for forensic and civil purposes without the two needs competing against each other."
The Health and Human Services Commission establishes the statewide allocations of "civil" and "forensic" beds in the state hospitals. Present funding and allocations place these needs in competition with each other. These beds are used for civil outpatient commitments, outpatient competency restoration, crisis stabilization units, crisis respite and other mental health hospital bed assignments. The need for these beds impacts two groups: those who are unable to make sound decisions for their own health needs, and those who are detained for evaluation of mental competence to stand trial when charged with a crime.
The mental health system in Texas is firmly linked with the criminal justice system; the more Texas reduces its support of mental health programs and services, the greater the number of occupants who will be housed in local jails and state prisons. Clearly, not all persons accused or convicted of crimes have mental competency issues, and certainly not all persons who need mental health services interact with the criminal justice system. However, current statewide limits are not sufficient to address availability of the number of state-provided beds needed to serve mental health patients, or the number of beds available to persons charged with crimes awaiting mental health assessment. Rep. McClendon emphasized, "It is time for Texas to consider it essential to foster mental wellness because it is so important for all persons, rather than treat mental health needs as something to be stigmatized or ignored."
Representative McClendon is currently serving her ninth term representing
Texas House District 120. She has served as Chair of the House Committee on
Rules & Resolutions. She has also served on the House Committee on Appropriations
and the House Committee on Transportation.
Janis Reinken or Josiah Biggs