Six legislative interim charges deal with behavioral health

By Monica Davila

Where do we stand now?

The 88th Texas Legislative Session will begin January 2023, meaning we are now in an interim period. This term’s interim charges were released earlier this year by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan.

Six interim charges related to behavioral health, including substance use, caught my attention. Four of the six charges advised the committees to examine the current state of behavioral health services, including their availability and delivery within various environments such as schools and county jails.

2022 Interim Charges

Interim charges are directives to study a certain issue as state legislators prepare for the upcoming legislative session. I have highlighted interim committee charges in both chambers that discuss mental health and/or substance use.

In the Senate

● The Education Committee is reviewing and evaluating the availability and delivery of mental health support services, along with other factors, relating to the operation of disciplinary alternative education programs and juvenile justice alternative education programs.

● The Finance Committee is examining the state mental health delivery system, including forensic and civil mental health service waitlists.

● The Veteran Affairs Committee will address veteran mental health concerns. They will review the currently accepted forms of treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and identify the training and resources available to urban and rural first responders when assisting veterans experiencing a mental health crisis.

In the House

● The Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will study the availability of victim services, including community-based trauma recovery, housing, and relocation assistance, employment protections, and other services that help victims recover and stay safe following a violent crime.

● The Committee on Public Education will examine the impact of COVID-19 on students’ mental health, including the availability and workload of mental health professionals across the state and their role in the public school system.

Joint Senate & House Charge

● As a joint interim charge, the House Committee on Corrections and the House Committee on County Affairs will examine the availability of behavioral health services. They also will consider the current treatment and recovery options available for those who are experiencing withdrawal from drug or alcohol use for individuals in county jails, in Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, or on community supervision or parole.

Our preparation continues

Although interim charges give us insight into what the committees will be focusing on in preparation for the 88th Texas Legislative Session, bills will begin to be filed in November. In early December, Prosper Waco will participate in an event in Austin where we will sit down with incumbents, newly elected officials, and Capitol insiders to discuss the 2023 Legislative session. By the time of the event, the filed bills will give us an understanding of the state of things as we head into the 88th legislative session.

Monica Davila is behavioral health policy fellow with Prosper Waco. It is a position funded by the Hogg Foundation.