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Public Policy: Child and Youth Mental Health

Half of mental health conditions begin by the age of 14 and 75% begin by the age of 24, but these issues often go undetected and untreated until they reach a crisis point. Texas should ensure that effective mental health intervention, support, and promotion strategies are readily available throughout the school system and other child/youth-serving agencies.

NAMI Texas Child and Youth Mental Health Policy Priorities

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Youth who have psychiatric needs in Texas often do not have access to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.  The ratio of children to child psychiatrists in Texas is six times higher than what is recommended by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  Policy opportunities to increase access to child and adolescent psychiatry include:

  • HHSC Exceptional Item 49 to fund the Pediatric Telemedicine Grant Program for Rural Texas
  • Creation of a Child Psychiatric Access Program to integrate necessary psychiatric services into pediatric primary care settings through telehealth services and education for pediatricians on mental health care.
Certified Family Partners

Family support is critical in the recovery process for those with a mental health disorder, but families may struggle to understand the process of accessing care for their child.

A Certified Family Partner (CFP) is a parent or guardian with lived experience raising a child with mental, emotional, or behavioral health challenges and who has at least one year navigating a child serving system. The Certified Family Partner uses their experience to educate, role model, and promote hope in recovery for other families.

Policy options may include:

  • Defining Certified Family Partners in state code to legitimize scope of practice
  • Medicaid reimbursement for Certified Family Partners
  • Funding to Local Mental Health Authorities to expand services
School mental health professionals

Schools can serve a critical role in identifying and treating early mental health issues in children, but many schools do not have the resources they need to succeed.  Policy strategies to increase capacity may include:

  • Increase the number of social workers and counselors working in schools
  • Stronger mental health and trauma-informed practice education for teachers
  • Texas Education Agency (TEA) Exceptional Item 1 to enhance mental health services and education in schools.
  • Capacity-building at the state government or higher education levels to disseminate best practices and provide technical assistance
    • NAMI Parents and Teachers as Allies
    • NAMI Ending the Silence
    • Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports
    • Social-Emotional Learning
    • Mental Health First Aid
Mental health education for students and parents

Recognizing the signs of mental illness should not be limited to mental health or educational professionals. Students and parents must be empowered with information on mental health disorders and how to seek treatment.

  • Required mental health education throughout the K-12 health and science curriculum
    • Funding for NAMI Ending the Silence for Students
  • Funding for parental education on mental health issues in school, clinic, and other community settings
    • NAMI’s Ending the Silence for Families program
Mental health services for foster youth

Youth in foster care are up to four times more likely to have a mental health disorder than youth outside the foster care system and are more likely to have a substance use disorder by the time they reach young adulthood.  Texas should also ensure youth and children who are in foster care or aging out receive appropriate and individualized treatment along the spectrum of needs

  • DFPS Exceptional Item 8 to fund prevention and early childhood intervention supports for both parents and children.
  • DFPS Exceptional Item 5 to fund Preparation for Adult Living staff and Supervised Independent Living programming and supports.


86th Legislative Session Key Bills on Child and Youth Mental Health

Testimony on Child and Youth Mental Health

Senate Finance Article III Written Testimony 2.11.19
HHSC LBB Written Testimony on Child Mental Health 9.19.18
Department of Family and Protective Services Legislative Budget Board Testimony 9.13.18
Public Health and Human Services Committee Testimony 8.9.18
House Select Committee on Opioid Use Testimony 8.8.18
School Mental Health Select Committee Testimony 7.18.18

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