|Growing Harris County’s Access to Mental Health Support
|Mental health is an issue we can no longer put on the back burner. During the pandemic, about four in ten adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, four times as many as in 2019. According to CDC data, in 2021 more than a third (37%) of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health. Disturbingly, Texas ranks last among all other states when it comes to access to mental health support services and, in the last year, the state has cut $117 million in mental health funding, further increasing the gap between support services and the individuals who depend on them. For the least fortunate folks, interaction with the police, arrest and/or jail is often the only way to access mental health services. The largest mental health provider in Texas is the Harris County Jail.
To combat this impending mental health crisis in Harris County, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court last month passed a $14.3 million initiative. Through a multi-million dollar allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the Behavioral and Mental Health Program will increase the quantity of trained mental health providers so they are better able to retain and hire more trained staff. The initiative will also recruit more high school and college students into the mental health profession, add school counselors, and will help connect residents with mental health and substance abuse resources that will aid in their recovery.
This is just another way Harris County is working to help improve lives for our residents. In August Harris County established The Brighter Futures for Harris County Kids program, which has invested more than $80 million dollars in early childhood education, childcare, and maternal health (read more below). Commissioner’s Court has also invested over $1 billion in crime prevention and justice programs including the HART (Holistic Assistance Response Teams) program, which dispatches trained behavioral and mental health responders, instead of busy police officers, to calls involving mental health and substance abuse issues, allowing police officers to focus on violent crime.