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Mental Health Policy Implications of Texas’ 87th Legislative Session

Briefing on the 87th Texas Legislative Session with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute

Published July 8, 2021

Understanding the policy landscape is critical for all sectors and that includes philanthropy. Public policy only has meaningful impact when it’s clearly understood and truly enhances the actual daily lives of those community members who the policy was designed to support. When new policies have a significant community benefit, philanthropic leaders can work to ensure those new policies and services are fully utilized.

Conversely, when policy decisions create holes in the safety net system, philanthropy (along with others) often step in either to help provide support for those necessary services or to shine a light on the impact of the ongoing community need with the promise to inspire future change. Thus, philanthropy is often the intermediary between the policy created and the people impacted.

We know that the pandemic has had cascading negative effects on mental health, and early data helps make that impact real. In the past year, rates of death from drug overdose jumped by 33%. Symptoms of depression have increased four-fold. The number of people seriously considering suicide doubled, and emergency department visits for mental health needs of children have increased by 33%.

Based on the data we have today, here are a few key lessons we’ve learned over the last year and a half:

  1. We need reliable, culturally responsive social and medical services that ensure that effective treatment is equally available to all the 1 in 5 Texans facing a mental health disorder. The cumulative impact of the pandemic with profoundly unequal economic disruptions, along with longstanding structural inequities, have imposed existential hardship. 
  2. The impact on the behavioral and mental health of children over this past year of isolation is one that should be very concerning to us all.  We have no idea of the long-term implications of the pandemic to the social and emotional learning of young people and as well as the physiological consequences to children’s brain development.
  3. We all need to be thinking today about how we can help both children and adults overcome the emotional and behavioral consequences of the pandemic tomorrow and long into the future. 

Policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels must all work to address these challenges as we start to rebuild our community. For insights on how specifically the Texas State Legislature has responded to the challenges of mental health during this time and the implications of those responses for Central Texas, St. David’s Foundation recently joined the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for a virtual briefing on Texas 87th Legislative Session. You can watch and share the full conversation below.