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Fighting Stigma of Mental Illness Goal of New Texas Nonprofit

Liang Shi for KUT News
Despite money put towards mental health care in Texas last legislative session, Texas ranks near the bottom in spending per capita on mental health. A new mental health policy nonprofit in Texas will work to identify ways to improve access to services.

Improving mental health practices for Texas and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness is the goal of a new statewide institute. Its focus will be on children, veterans and criminal justice policies.

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute opened its doors today. Tom Luce, its chief executive officer, says the nonprofit will do research to improve access to mental health care in Texas – and not just after emergencies like the recent Fort Hood shooting.

"You can’t just throw money at a problem, you need to say here are some solutions that work," Luce says. "Let me show you some solutions in Del Rio, Laredo or San Antonio. Why can’t we do this statewide?"

Jake Schick with the UT Dallas Center for Brain Health lost his right leg as a Marine in Iraq. But even after 46 operations, he says it was harder to deal with the mental injuries he suffered. Schick spoke today at a panel discussion organized by the institute.

"'Cause once you admit something is going on you might as well throw in the towel because you’re done," Schick says. "Then again, the stigma that comes with admitting that you’re struggling with your mental health is a detriment to your career."

In the last legislative session, state lawmakers put more money into mental health, including money just for veterans. But Texas still ranks near the bottom in mental health spending per capita. The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute will be privately funded.