Bill gives mental health help to veterans
by State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, state Rep. Joseph Moody, and state Rep. Cesar Blanco—
In addition to the nearly 150,000 active duty service members based at our state’s 15 military installations, Texas is home to more than 1.7 million veterans.
In our region, El Paso is home to about 50,000 veterans as well as Fort Bliss, the second-largest U.S. Army installation, with more than 70,000 active duty service personnel and family members.
One of the highest priorities that any member of the Texas Legislature has is our obligation to these military service members, veterans and their families.
As members of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations, the House Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, and the House Select Committee on Mental Health, we are proud to report on the progress the 84th Legislature made for veterans’ mental health services through the passage of Senate Bill 55.
S.B. 55 created the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, a new and innovative program to support mental health services and treatment for veterans and military families in their local communities.
The Texas Legislature appropriated $20 million to fund the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, which will be matched by local and private funds, to provide a total of $40 million in mental health support for veterans and their families.
This unique opportunity will allow the state to partner with the private sector to tailor mental health programs that will meet the specific treatment needs of each community, which may include services for post-traumatic stress disorder and peer support programs.
Texas Veterans + Family Alliance is beginning with a pilot phase funded by $1 million in state appropriations, with a match of $1 million in local and private funds. The program will focus on community collaborations to address the mental health needs that are currently not being met.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will select projects to be funded by the program through a competitive statewide request-for-proposal process, which was recently released. The objective is to award state funding to programs throughout Texas, with decisions on successful applicants for the pilot phase complete by early 2016.
Through the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, the state is not only leveraging community collaborations and private funds, it is partnering with a pilot program administrator, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, which will work with organizations to identify matching funds for the pilot project.
The fundamental commitment of Texas Veterans + Family Alliance is to bring communities together to fill the unmet mental health needs of Texas veterans and military families, so they have access to the services they need, when they need them.
Access to efficient and effective mental health care is a critical issue for all Texans, but we owe a special debt to our veterans and their families, particularly those who served us in combat. Texas Veterans + Family Alliance is a bold initiative by the State of Texas to address those mental health needs.
Learn more at www.texasstateofmind.org/tvfa<http://www.texasstateofmind.org/tvfa>.
José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which extends from El Paso to the Big Bend, and is chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Joseph Moody represents Texas House District 78, which includes parts of Northeast and West El Paso as well as the communities of Canutillo, Vinton, Westway and Anthony. César Blanco represents El Paso’s Texas House District 76. He is a U.S. Navy veteran, and a member of the American GI Forum and American Legion.