Major mental health expansion clears Texas Senate

Thousands of Texas inmates are in need of mental health care. It's estimated more than 2,000 inmates are on a waiting list to get into a state mental health care facility.

"I think this is a civil rights issue. You shouldn't be waiting in jail to have your restoration, your mental competency restored, to wait to go to trial," said State Senator Lois Kolkhorst. 

To address that, Kolkhorst joined Lt. Gov Dan Patrick in talking about a major mental health care building and expansion. The multi-billion dollar proposal, much of it through SB 26, targets multiple locations across Texas.

"We wanted to place these around the state where most sheriffs were within a few hours of being able to take someone to one of these facilities for help. This is an expansion of over $2 billion in the budget out of our surplus to build these hospitals," said Patrick.

This plan includes creating what’s called diversion beds. The idea is similar to how Austin’s Sobering Center can keep people out of jail. Mental health diversion beds, according to Kolkhorst, can help people before a crisis becomes violent.

"They may be a 72-hour place where somebody can come and cool down. I've heard from members to say, let's get people to a place where they don't end up in our jails, where they don't end up in committing crimes. And so super excited about this, this. Is really played out in Rider 40 of the General Appropriations Act. Rider 40, which will we just substituted out. It will be House Bill one on the Senate floor next week," said Kolkhorst.


SB 26 would also create grant programs to help families gain access to new community-based initiatives. There are also provisions for auditing progress. 

The proposal still has to be approved by the House.

"A perfect plan, maybe not yet, but I can tell you it's a plan, and it's a way forward. And I'm very excited about that," said Kolkhorst.

The money to pay for this expansion would come from the budget surplus. The Lt. Gov. said the proposal is an example of getting some of that surplus back to the taxpayer.