Texas ranks last in mental health funding

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on December 18, 2012 at 12:00 PM

DALLAS — We may never know why Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday, killing 27 people — including 20 children.

No one knows either if the 20-year-old was in active treatment for whatever mental illness he may have had when he went on the killing spree.

But in Texas, those who need help often face great challenges getting it.

The national average for spending on mental health services is $109 a person, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Texas spends just $36, ranking the state 51st (including Washington DC) — last in the country — when it comes to mental health funding.

"And our area — Dallas — is ranked at the bottom of the state," said Matt Roberts of Mental Health America of Greater Dallas.

His organization helps about 180,000 North Texans each year, many of them children.

Roberts said it is not unusual for those who are fresh from a crisis situation to slip through the cracks because of a lack of funding.

"Right when folks come out of jail... right when folks come out of higher level of care, the hospital... we would like for them to get care, and it's a challenge for that to happen sometimes," Roberts said.

In their last session, Texas lawmakers cut nearly $25 million from mental health services. The Texas Department of State Health Services is requesting a $100 million increase when the legislature meets again in January.

Many experts say getting more more money for mental health services is a long shot this session. Gov. Rick Perry turned down a federal match for Medicaid in a political fight over the Affordable Healthcare Act. That means Texas will have to make up about $800 million on its own.

Health experts say more funding is needed in order to help the next Adam Lanza before mental illness turns deadly.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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