Mental health programs miss some cuts, but some still lose out
Throughout the month of August, The Texas Tribune will feature 31 ways Texans’ lives will change come Sept. 1, the date most bills passed by the Legislature — including the dramatically reduced budget — take effect.
Day 6: State lawmakers kept funding for mental health services mostly level, but some Texans will still lose aid they’ve come to rely on.
AUSTIN — Following the special session, Bluebonnet Trails, a mental health services provider based in Williamson County, learned it would lose more than a quarter of its funding.
Andrea Richardson, the program’s executive director, was pleasantly surprised when the budget reductions she thought would force Bluebonnet to cut services to 2,000-plus individuals never materialized. But she was soon unpleasantly surprised by the dramatic cuts to mental health programs serving people with developmental disabilities.
“We’re looking at cutting about 470 persons from our services list,” Richardson says.
That’s far fewer than 2,000, but it’s little consolation to those on the sharp end of the budget blade.
”Given the big picture budget situation, our mental health programs came out pretty well in terms of funding,” said Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams.
Overall, legislators voted to maintain the current level of state and federal spending on community mental programs for adult, child, crisis and NorthStar programs (a publicly funded mental health and substance abuse treatment service serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area) at roughly $1 billion a year. About $750 million of that amount comes from state general fund revenues.
Funding for state mental health hospitals will increase slightly, from $779 million to $783 million. The state’s portion of that funding increased from $620.1 million to $626 million.
Community mental health hospital spending, which includes payments to providers who contract with the state, will increase from $60 million to $107 million. $30 million of that increase will fund a new community mental health facility in Montgomery County, and $10 million will be used to increase capacity in Harris County for mentally ill patients accused of crimes.
Though mental health funding survived some of the draconian cuts proposed at the beginning of the legislative session, “that’s not to say there won’t be individual providers who see decreases and reductions,” Williams said.