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Advocates Seek To Address Mental Health Issues This Legislative Session

The medical community in Greater Houston is pushing for some key bills this legislative session that they say could improve the state of mental healthcare in Texas.


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Bill Kelly speaking
Bill Kelly presents key bills introduced this legislative session to a group of mental health professionals in Houston.


Recent reports show Texas is facing a shortage of mental health professionals. Bill Kelly is with Mental Health America of Greater Houston. He says a bill introduced in the Senate would support student loan assistance for mental health workers. The hope is that it would encourage more doctors to pursue careers in the field. Kelly says he’s optimistic the bill will pass this session.

“I hope folks can just continue to contact their legislator to let them know they care about mental health,” Kelly says.

More mental health professionals could shift the burden of care from other agencies, says Kelly. He says for many patients, the first point of contact with mental health care is the criminal justice system. The state Legislature can be hesitant to support more spending, but Kelly says funding for these programs could be shifted from other areas, like criminal justice. He says either way, we end up paying the cost for mental healthcare.

“We are just not spending the money on providing those services before folks deteriorate into a crisis situation,” he says.

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Mental Health America is also pushing for a bill to improve care for veterans. It would fund community programs to treat veterans with mental illness. Kelly says more programs should help lift the stigma of getting help.

“This isn’t anything to be ashamed of,” he says. “This is a medical condition. Nobody blames anyone for getting cancer. We do need that kind of same aspect and attitude when it comes to mental health.”