Texas House looks to bring more mental health services to schools

AUSTIN (KXAN) – This week, the Texas legislature will continue to work on several key mental health bills at the Texas Capitol, one encouraging schools to offer mental health services for their students. According to a state report, one in five children have some type of mental health disorder.

Despite the serene setting at Crockett High School in the Austin Independent School District, teenagers still struggle with depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol. That’s when Dr. Elizabeth Minne comes to help.

She runs an outpatient mental health clinic at Crockett and two other high schools in order to get to issues early.

“It could potentially change the course of that young person’s life,” said Dr. Minne. It started five years ago with only her. At Crockett, she added two therapists and a team of graduate students.  She says class disruption has gone down, attendance has gone up.

“This is a place to vent, but this is also a place to develop skills so they can be effective at school, at home and in life,” Minne said.

They see around 20 students a day but hope to expand to all 130 AISD schools. But the lack of funding and resources holds it up.

“The demand is huge and we’re just constantly trying to find the resources so we can hire more therapists meeting the needs of all the students here,” said Minne.

But the Texas House hopes to combat a mental health crisis in Texas by requiring mental health workers in public schools, implementing mental health lessons in physical education, and giving teachers more training on how to spot issues.

Critics of the measures say that because this is a tight budget year, the state might not have enough money to successfully implement and fund new programs.

Much of the work of getting mental health services in schools is in HB 11. But there are other major reforms going through the Texas legislature.  HB 12 would allow and encourage mental health services be given to people in the court system. HB 13 creates a $50 million grant program for regional health departments and community mental health programs.

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