This is the first legislative session the Center will have a dedicated staff member to focus on issues related to behavioral health. In this position I will research, analyze and advocate for policies and fiscal matters that enhance the quality and capacity of mental health and substance abuse services and treatment in Texas.
There will be a lot of moving parts to monitor. Since the end of last session, several important research projects examined the current statutes and public systems related to mental health and substance abuse in Texas, which will prompt legislation this session aimed at revising the Mental Health Code and adopting policies to improve patient outcomes, access to services, and service utilization. I will also monitor proposals to impose criminal penalties on persons with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, with a goal of promoting treatments when those individuals engage in criminal behaviors, as opposed to simple punishment.
Looking ahead to the 2014 launch of Affordable Care Act, I will support efforts to give the Texas Department of insurance the power to enforce mental health parity laws in individual and small group health plans. Finally, letting US citizen adults enroll in Medicaid under the ACA would improve outcomes for Texans individuals with behavioral health needs by giving access to regular affordable treatment services.