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More People Getting Access to Mental Health Care After Boost in State Spending

Liang Shi for KUT
A panel of Texas senators received an update Aug. 15, 2014 on what's being accomplished in mental health services after a boost in state spending approved by the 83rd Legislature in 2013.

Texas is spending more money on mental health now than it has in more than a decade, and today, state lawmakers got to hear about what that money is accomplishing.

Some of the numbers on mental health services in Texas have lawmakers patting themselves on the back.

"That is truly a remarkable accomplishment. And a clear demonstration of what our investment last [legislative] session did," said State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, speaking to Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Department of State Health Services.

Last session, lawmakers dedicated hundreds of millions to mental health care, money they had cut two years earlier. About $50 million went to reduce waiting lists at community-based mental health providers like Austin Travis County Integral Care.

Early last year, Texas had more than 5,000 people on a waiting list for services at community centers, but more than a year later, that number dropped to 285.

Texas used to rank near the bottom compared to other states in per-capita spending on mental health care, but the $2.6 billion devoted by the Texas Legislature last year could bring Texas closer to the national average, according to liberal advocates.

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