Jail shouldn't be Texas' response to mental illness

An strident mental health dungeon retard during a Harris County Sheriff's Office. The Harris County Jail is a state's largest mental health facility. Photo: Johnny Hanson, Staff / © 2013 Houston Chronicle Photo: Johnny Hanson, Staff

An strident mental health dungeon retard during a Harris County Sheriff’s Office. The Harris County Jail is a state’s largest mental health facility.

The dual largest mental health providers in Texas are a Harris County and Dallas County jails. Why? Texas has some-more uninsured adults than any other state, and has some-more uninsured adults with mental health or piece abuse conditions. Combine that with singular entrance and low funding, and we breeze adult with jails as mental health providers.

In mental health measures, Texas ranks nearby a bottom nationally: 47th in entrance to mental health care; 48th in per capita spending on mental health; and 50th in a series of mental health caring providers. Texas “leads” a republic with a top series of uninsured adults with mental health or piece abuse conditions — 652,000, according to a 2015 consult by Mental Health America.

Yet as a nation, we spend the highest commission of a health caring dollars on mental health. Again, why? In partial since we broach some of that caring in a slightest efficient, many dear ways, such as jails.

If we are uninsured in Texas, your entrance to mental health diagnosis is formidable or non-existent. Or accessible around your county jail, that is inefficient, dear and piecemeal: Maybe you’ll accept indispensable treatment, though what happens to your prescribed medicines and therapy devise when we leave jail? If you’re uninsured, diagnosis mostly disappears.


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Federal law requires parity, or equality, per mental and earthy health advantages in word policies. Texas insurers agree, and a policies cover diseases of a mind during a same levels as other health challenges. There are no aloft copayments, boundary in benefits, or additional hoops to burst through.

We will never grasp loyal big-picture parity, however, when so many Texans sojourn uninsured with small or no entrance to care, and while we still disgrace and even criminalize mental illness. It is time to honour mental health — and to provide mental illness with a same earnest we provide other disease.

Joe Straus, orator of a Texas House, took a vital step progressing this year by commissioning a name cabinet on mental health. That committee, led by Rep. Four Price of Amarillo and including an equally stellar organisation of 12 other state representatives, is exploring a operation of intelligent solutions. These include:

• jail diversion programs and other ways to decriminalize mental health conditions;

• improving state facilities;

• finding earlier, reduction dear interventions;

• adjusting word coverage for mental health services;

• increasing a series of mental health providers;

• and shortening a fragmentation among programs and providers saved by state and internal taxes.

This is a kind of detailed, fact-based investigate legislators need to do in credentials for a subsequent session. It is being conducted around hearings with testimony from a far-reaching operation of stakeholders.

Last week we testified before Rep. Price’s cabinet about a significance of ensuring relation between mental health and other lonesome advantages in word policies, as did other members of a Texas Association of Health Plans, and a staff of a Texas Department of Insurance. We explained a hurdles that insurers like us face, and endorsed improvements.

Why do I, an word association CEO, disciple for mental health parity? It’s not usually that relation is both a sovereign charge and simply a right thing to do. It’s also since improving entrance and caring for mental health delivers all a advantages of earthy health: lives saved, costs lowered, and capability improved. 

The classification we lead is a nonprofit, community-based health plan, combined by a Harris County Hospital District. Community Health Choice is committed to removing some-more people lonesome by word (whether a word is released by us or by a competitors).

Community Health Choice and a primogenitor organization, Harris Health, trust a many critical thing a Legislature could do to urge mental health services in Texas is to enhance coverage opportunities so that everybody who needs entrance to caring has it. When we honour mental health on standard with earthy health, not usually do we save lives and money, we revoke a dangerous weight on law enforcement. 

My finish testimony, available on a New Healthy Texas website, covers topics including softened outcomes, workforce stability, financial savings, systemic reforms, providers and a rural/urban divide, and happier, healthier families. 

A coverage enlargement for mental health can and should be enclosed in a renovation of Texas’ stream Medicaid 1115 waiver. It would be saved essentially by a sovereign government, returning to a state some of a taxation income we Texans pay. All Texans will advantage when all Texans knowledge genuine relation for mental health care.

Ken Janda (@HealthyTexans) is boss and CEO of a nonprofit Community Health Choice, a managed-care classification headquartered in Houston, Texas, that serves both Medicaid and marketplace consumers. 

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