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Texas House Moves to Reform Mental Health Care

April 4, 2017 | By LeAnn Wallace

There was a step forward in reforming access to mental health care in Texas after the House gave the preliminary green light to a bill that would ensure health insurance companies treat mental health benefits the same as other medical benefits.

An estimated 1 in 5 people lives with some sort of mental health disorder.

The Texas House gave the initial go-ahead Tuesday to a bill that would prevent health insurance companies from treating mental health issues differently than other medical issues.

“Mental Health Services are not often being adequately covered under health insurance plans,” said Republican Rep. Four Price, the bill’s author.

Representative Four Price says many people end up having to pay out of pocket – or they avoid seeking help altogether.

“We know that so often people are concerned about the cost that they incur when they’re looking at that kind of care,” said Karen Ranus, NAMI Austin Executive Director.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI is a non-profit that provides free resources for people with a variety of mental health issues… from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia.

“And even among those as well, there’s a pretty wide range of behaviors, signs, symptoms you might see with them,” said Ranus.

Karen Ranus is the executive director of Austin’s NAMI chapter. She says that although you sometimes can’t physically see the effects of mental health, they are even more common than some other medical issues.

“They have a higher prevalence rate than cancer, diabetes, asthma, which are very commonly recognized public health issues that we have no qualms about spending money on and making priorities. We have all sorts of campaigns around them and encourage people to get help early right? Because the earlier you get treatment, the better your outcomes are.” said Ranus.

The hope is that by equating physical conditions with mental health conditions, more people will find it easier to get treatment.

–What’s next:–

There are several other measures in play that look to bolster mental health at the State Capitol, including a bill that would better guide law enforcement on how to handle people with mental health issues. Another would increase requirements for how schools help students with mental illness.

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