Ahead of tonight’s Mayoral Forum on Behavioral Health, I would like to reflect on the progress made in supporting mental health care, and the work I’ve done to ensure people in Harris County and across the state receive the mental health care they need.

In 2013, Texas faced a mental health crisis. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, our state was ranked 51st in per capita funding for mental health services. At that time, the national average for state spending on mental health services was $109 per capita. Texas was spending and abysmal $36.

To address the issue, I proposed an increase in the amount of state mental health funding for Texas to increase from $32 million to $250 million. This money would go toward expanding mental health facilities and substance abuse treatment in our county.

Thanks to these efforts, we were able to eliminate the waiting list for mental health services for both children and adults in across the state. As the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I continued the fight over the following two years to ensure mental health care was funded.

I also introduced House Bill 1393 to establish a home and community-based services program under Medicaid for Texans with mental illnesses. Because the closest state hospital is hours away for many Harris County residents, it is important to provide at-risk populations with mental health care where they live.

Standing up for mental health care isn’t just the right thing to do, oftentimes it is also a fiscally responsible way to ensure those who need care are not diverted into the prison system where their issues will continue to go unaddressed. I know there is more to be done to support mental health care in our city, and as the mayor I will build on the progress I have made in the House to make sure Houstonians have increased access to mental health care.