Behavioral Health Support

Texas Mental Health Care Consortium - Senate Bill 10

The nonprofit Mental Health America ranks Texas last among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for youth access to mental health care. According to its 2019 report, The State of Mental Health in America, 71.3% of youth in Texas with major depression go untreated, compared with the national average of 61.5%.

The goals of Senate Bill 10 are to improve access to mental health care from the family doctor, expand the mental health workforce, and provide real-time help to families and schools for high risk children and youth with mental health needs. This is a step to improve outcomes for Texas children and families affected by mental illness by meeting needs far earlier than the eight to ten years that families must wait today for care.

Senate Bill 10 establishes the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to foster collaboration among our state medical schools, promote and coordinate mental health research, and help address workforce issues. Specifically, it establishes the following under the Consortium's oversight:

  • Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN) — a network of comprehensive child psychiatry access centers to provide consultation services and training opportunities for pediatricians and primary care providers operating in the center's geographic region to better care for children and youth with behavioral health needs.
  • Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT) -- telemedicine or telehealth programs for identifying and assessing behavioral health needs and providing access to mental health care services for children and youth.
  • Child Psychiatry Workforce Expansion — funding for psychiatrists who treat children and adolescents to serve as academic medical directors for community mental health providers as well as new resident rotation positions under the academic medical director's supervision.
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowships — funding for physician fellowship positions that will lead to a medical specialty in child and adolescent psychiatry.

House Bill 1 (the 2020-21 state budget) includes $100M for the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to implement these provisions over the biennium. It is estimated $30M of this $100M will go to coordinated mental health and substance use disorder research efforts among our state-funded medical schools.

Undiagnosed and untreated mental illness carries heavy human and economic costs. Youth across the nation are facing tragic levels of suicide, depression, and anxiety and wait years for help. Inadequately treated mental illness and substance abuse costs Texas local governments over $2 billion a year in emergency and justice system expenses. Most importantly, the earlier mental illness is detected, the more effective care will be.

Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Larry Taylor and House sponsor Rep. Dennis Bonnen, M.D. became very important when SB 10 (Texas Mental Health Care Consortium) died on a point of order in the Texas House. Later that same evening, Dr. Zerwas added SB 10 as an amendment to SB 11 and brought it back to life.