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EDITORIAL: Keep all aspects of mental health reform

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - 5/13/2017

May 13--Achieving mental health care reform in Texas isn't easy.

The state's antiquated mental health care system makes it almost impossible to get reasonable mental health care. Reforming it will take stamina and careful consideration of all parts of the complicated issue.

The Legislature is currently attempting reform but seems to be missing a big point of effective mental health care.

The Sandra Bland Act, or Senate Bill 1849, was aimed at preventing future tragedies like Bland's death. In 2015, she was arrested at a traffic stop. She died by apparent suicide three days later while in jail.

Sen. John Whitmire's bill addressed two major areas: racial profiling/bias and diversion from jail for those suffering from mental health issues.

Earlier this session, we worried about both subjects being "sandwiched in one bill" and urged legislators to keep both. The Senate gutted most of the racial profiling before passing the bill.

SB 1849 still does a lot of good, but the frustrating omission of most of the racial profiling elements shows a unilateral approach to a many-sided problem.

House members need to fill the gap, though their handling of other mental health reform bills has been disappointing.

Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, authored four significant bills for mental health reform.

Three made it to the Senate. One did not.

House Bill 11 has a bleak future. Having missed Thursday's deadline, the education bill is dead unless Price can amend it to an existing bill.

Price approached mental health reform correctly. He made sure to address all the facets of mental health while building up a network of care.

The House didn't pass one major part of this network, which leaves a big hole in the reform.

HB 11 would have given resources and tools to educators and students to better deal with mental health issues in schools.

It addressed early intervention, education, reducing stigmatization and creating safer environments at schools.

Without this piece of the reform, it makes it a whole lot harder to get an effective system in place.

Legislators need to do better for this reform to work.


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