For Immediate Release
May 9, 2012
Sinatra (512) 473-2274
New Study Finds Children's
Mental Health Services in Texas "Near Failing"
As lawmakers hold
hearing on mental health on Children's Mental Health Awareness Day,
Texas said to rank last nationally in connecting mentally ill kids with
AUSTIN -- Texas is falling behind other states in promoting
children's mental health, while families and communities pay the price,
according to a new study that says Texas is either "failing" or "near failing"
in 9 of 14 indicators of children's mental health. On a day when a Texas Senate committee will
hear testimony about Texans' access to public mental health services, the new
report from Texans Care for Children, a statewide nonprofit focused on
children's policy, finds major gaps in the state's response to mentally ill
children and youth.
health should be a top priority for our state. Texas is last among states in mental health
spending, and last also in mental health treatment for children who need it,'
said Eileen Garcia, chief executive officer of Texans Care for Children. "Our
state has a severe shortage of mental health professionals, and too many
children with emotional disturbance being suspended or expelled from school,
The report, A Check-Up on Children's Mental
Health in Texas, explores major issues in mental health programs, services and
trends for Texans under the age of 18, using data from state and national
sources, including the U.S. Surgeon General, the Texas Department of State
Health Services and the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. Stakeholders in
children's mental health in Texas and nationally helped identify indicators
used in the report.
Texas was found to "need
improvement" on 4 of the 14 indicators assessed in the report, released on
Wednesday, national Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. On only one
indicator, pertaining to innovation in local communities, was Texas deemed "healthy"
for its approach to children with mental illness.
"Despite the gaps
between current need and available services at the state level, promising
activities in several communities suggest ways to close some of those gaps,"
said Josette Saxton, a Texans Care for Children policy associate and author
of the report. "Exciting things are happening in places like Austin, El Paso,
Lubbock, Houston and Fort Worth, where communities have demonstrated that
when they come together and partner with families, the result is effective
plans of action to improve outcomes for children, even those with the most
serious mental health concerns."
One way Texas is working
to expand effective local practices statewide is through a public-private
effort called the ASSET Initiative (www.txsystemofcare.org). One of the leaders of the effort, Dr. Molly Lopez, a research
scientist at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Social Work
Research, said the approach is "working to ensure policies, regulations and
financing align' in ways that benefit children.
The report offers five
key recommendations for addressing issues the 1 in 5 children across Texas
who cope with a mental health challenge face. "It's time for the state to
make sure no matter where children and youth with mental health concerns live,
they have access to services and supports that can help them succeed in their
families, at school, in their communities and into adulthood," said Saxton.
"Failing to do so won't just mean poor outcomes for these kids. It means
continued poor outcomes and a diminished future for our state."
Texans Care for Children,
a nonpartisan organization works to improve the
health, safety and wellbeing of millions of Texas children and to raise
awareness about their needs. The full paper on children's mental health can
be on Texans Care's website,http://www.txchildren.org/.