May 7, 2009
CONTACT: Christine Sinatra (512) 473-2274
For Immediate Release
Children's Mental Health Services in Texas Found “Near Failing”
State leaders meanwhile consider drastic cuts during Children's Mental Health Awareness Week
AUSTIN – It's 2009 National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week, but in Texas a new study finds that the state is falling behind in several key areas pertaining to children's social, emotional and behavioral health. Texans Care for Children today released Children's Mental Health in Texas: A Diagnostic Test, an exploration of major issues in mental health programs, services and trends for Texans under the age of 18. The paper finds that Texas is failing or near failing in 5 of 9 areas pertaining to children's mental health and that the state could not be deemed “healthy” by any indicator in addressing unmet mental health needs in Texas children.
Despite the pressing need, some members of the Texas Legislature's budget conference committee this week have indicated funding for mental health in the state budget is at risk. Community mental health services, which are major providers of services to children, face uncertain prospects in the budget revision occurring now.
“For children, supporting behavioral health can mean ensuring healthy brain development in a baby, giving a preschooler the chance to be socially and emotionally ready to start school, helping a child who has been abused cope with trauma or providing treatment for a youth with a mental illness,” said Eileen Garcia, executive director of Texans Care for Children, a statewide nonprofit child advocacy organization. “Above all during this legislative session, we must secure better outcomes for children by committing to meeting needs early in life.”
Among the findings in the diagnostic test were that Texas is falling behind other states in addressing social and emotional health in young children, that children here face barriers to working with mental health providers and that 82% of children who qualify for mental health services based on a diagnosis do not receive treatment. The report's data was derived from state and national sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Texas Education Agency and others. Stakeholders in children's mental health at both the state and national levels helped identify indicators used in the report.
Texans Care for Children, a 25-year-old nonpartisan group based in Austin, does research, policy work and advocacy to improve outcomes for 6.4 million Texas children and to raise awareness about their needs. The full paper on children's mental health can be found under “Policy Papers,” on Texans Care's website, http://www.txchildren.org/.