Every two years in Texas our legislature meets and votes on bills that become law. As of the March 10th filing deadline, there were a total of 6,654 bills and joint resolutions filed for the 85th Legislative Session. Even now, committees are reviewing and hearing bills, meeting at least weekly and making decisions for the biennial that direct how the state allocates funds and brings new laws and regulations into effect.

Of the bills filed, many of them directly affect my agency, MHMR of Tarrant County; and how it can provide services to persons residing in our county and this region. MHMR provides mental health and substance use disorder services to the Medicaid population and privately insured; but the majority of our persons served are uninsured. They may be unemployed or the working poor, many are homeless and poorly educated. Most of them feel disenfranchised by society due to an illness which has grown beyond their control.

It takes physicians, counselors, social workers, qualified mental health providers and many other team members to assist persons affected with chronic illness to achieve a better quality of life. The services they provide are directed by what happens every other year in Austin, where behavioral health begins in Texas.

On March 7th, I had the opportunity to attend “Recovery Day at the Texas Capital” in Austin. The event was hosted by the Association of Substance Abuse Programs (ASAP), Recovery People, Texas Association of Addiction Professions (TAAP), and Spread Hope Like Fire. Along with approximately 200 other advocates for recovery, Keena Pace, MHMR’s Chief of Behavioral Health, and I met with state representatives and senators in an effort to promote substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services for Texans.

A big thank you goes out to the Senator Jane Nelson, and Representatives Craig Goldman, Ramon Romero Jr, Charlie Geren and Nicole Collier for taking the time to meet with us and hear our position on bills being filed this session that affect substance use disorder and the provision of services for persons affected with the disease.

If you are interested in what is happening in the legislature, you can go to Texas Legislature Online;and type in key words to find bills that pertain to your interests and concerns. Bills with implications for mental health conditions and substance use disorders can involve child protective services, education, criminal offenses and penalties, assistance program eligibility, sober housing and the list goes on.

Our ability to provide behavioral health services to the individuals we serve begin on the legislative floor in Austin. Governmental bodies decide what services will be provided, who can provide them and how they will be funded. Feel free to write or call your representatives and senators to let them know what is important to you. You can find out who that is here. If you are interested please email me at JulieMc1224@outlook.com; and I will be happy to forward you links to bills that may affect providing services to persons in need.

Remember, if you or someone you know needs help from substance use disorder or mental illness; call or text MHMR Tarrant’s 24/7 ICARE at 800-866-2045.