Mental Health a Priority This Legislative Session

In a little over a month, Texas lawmakers will be heading to Austin for the 2017 legislative session, and mental health will be a priority for House Speaker Joe Straus.

Texas trails behind other states when it comes to care and treatment.

"There is enough to do in 140 days to balance our budget, to meet the needs of Child Protective Services, to improve mental health care in the state," said Straus, a San Antonio Republican.

Members of the Texas Legislature already have some ideas, because Straus put together a committee in 2015 to look at mental health treatment and services as a whole.

There have been hearings for a year now, but the recommendations are not out yet.

"My hope is that our recommendations include replacing state facilities, state hospitals, increase funding to local mental healthcare authorities, better integration with public education," said State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, a member of that committee.

According to our NBC 5's news partners at The Dallas Morning News, there are 11 psychiatric hospitals and the Texas Department of State Health Services has identified the need to replace five along with renovating the others.

It's a heavy lift that would require $1 billion of taxpayer money, and that is even before they even get to other mental health needs, like the shortage of psychiatrists in the state.

"Again, I think the House leadership, Speaker Straus and others, are very serious about this issue, as am I. So I think the House is united and says this is one of our top priorities. I think we can get it done," he said.

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