While decarceration measures have led to 11,000 fewer people in Texas prisons since 2011, the state remains a leading incarcerator, with 145,000 people behind bars. It is critical to establish a community-based, public health approach to substance use, behavioral health, and other issues that are better addressed outside prison walls. The bills below will increase access to treatment supports and safely reduce arrests among vulnerable populations.
HB 374 (Authors: Allen, Bowers | Sponsor: Miles), Relating to meetings or visits between a defendant on community supervision and a supervision officer. By January 2020, probation departments must adopt a policy requiring probation officers to consider each defendant’s work, treatment, or community service schedule, as applicable, when scheduling any required meetings or visits – a strategy that will tailor probation to the needs of working Texans, thereby reducing the number of people sent to jail or prison for technical probation violations. A department can also permit a defendant to report to the probation officer via videoconference if an in-person meeting or visit is unnecessary. – Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019
HB 1070 (Authors: Price, Senfronia Thompson, Coleman, Greg Bonnen, Sheffield | Sponsor: Watson), Relating to the mental health first aid training program reporting requirements. Local Mental Health Authorities (LMHA’s) must now annually provide additional information to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), including the number of mental health first aid trainers who left a mental health first aid training program for any reason during the preceding fiscal year, and the number of active trainers, as well as university or school employees (including school resource officers) who completed such a training program. DSHS in turn will report to the Legislature on such information each year, along with an accounting of financial expenditures appropriated for mental health first aid training. – Signed by the Governor
HB 2813 (Authors: Price, Raymond | Sponsor: Nelson), Relating to the statewide behavioral health coordinating council. This bill establishes the Statewide Behavioral Health Coordinating Council to ensure a strategic statewide approach to behavioral health services. Among others, members include representatives designated by: the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Indigent Defense Commission, Texas Education Agency, Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs, Texas Workforce Commission, and Texas Civil Commitment Office. The Council must:
- develop and monitor the implementation of a 5-year statewide behavioral health strategic plan;
- develop a biennial coordinated statewide behavioral health expenditure proposal; and
- annually publish an updated inventory of state-funded behavioral health programs and services.
Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 6/10/2019
HB 2955 (Authors: Price, Murr, Moody, Minjarez | Sponsor: Zaffirini), Relating to oversight of specialty court programs. Prior to passage of this bill, a specialty court program could not operate until its administrator provided certain program-related information to the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division; this bill moves oversight to the Office of Court Administration (OCA). Furthermore, specialty court programs must now report required information regarding their performance to the Criminal Justice Division and the Texas Judicial Council. OCA must:
- provide technical assistance to the programs, upon request;
- coordinate with an entity funded by the Criminal Justice Division that provides services to specialty court programs;
- monitor programs’ compliance with programmatic best practices recommended by the Specialty Courts Advisory Council and approved by the Texas Judicial Council; and
- notify the Criminal Justice Division about each program that is not in compliance with the best practices.
Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019
HB 3529 (Author: Gutierrez | Sponsor: Menéndez), Relating to the creation of a family violence pretrial diversion pilot program in Bexar County. To reduce rates of family violence recidivism, the Community Justice Assistance Division (CJAD, the probation arm) of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice must collaborate with judges in Bexar County who have jurisdiction over cases involving family violence to establish a family violence pretrial diversion pilot program; participating individuals must be charged with an offense involving family violence and meet the assessment criteria for substance use disorder. The pilot program must include:
- assessment instruments to accurately analyze the needs of participants;
- a comprehensive substance abuse disorder and chemical dependency treatment program that includes case managers, clinicians, peer mentors, or recovery coaches;
- a procedure (in collaboration with law enforcement agencies) to rapidly respond to participants who fail to comply with requirements, including immediate removal from the pilot program when appropriate; and
- the use of a video teleconferencing system in court to facilitate the cooperation of witnesses in the justice system and to reduce costs associated with transporting defendants.
CJAD must biennially review the pilot program and submit a report to the Legislature that includes a summary of the status and results of the program, an analysis of the effectiveness of the program in reducing the rate of family violence recidivism among participants, sources of funding available to extend the pilot program to other counties or for a longer period of time, and any legislative or other recommendations. The pilot program expires in September 2023. – Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 6/10/2019
HB 3540 (Authors: Burns, Raymond, Collier | Sponsor: Hughes), Relating to the authority of a peace officer to release in lieu of arrest certain persons with an intellectual or developmental disability. In lieu of arresting a person with an intellectual or developmental disability who resides at a group home or intermediate care facility, a peace officer can release the person to his or her residence if: (1) the officer believes confinement in a correctional facility is unnecessary to protect the person and others who reside at the residence, and (2) the officer made reasonable efforts to consult with staff at the residence and with the person regarding that decision. – Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019
HB 3980 (Author: Hunter | Sponsor: Menéndez), Relating to a requirement that the Statewide Behavioral Health Coordinating Council prepare a report regarding suicide rates in this state and state efforts to prevent suicides. This bill acknowledges that suicide is a public health crisis that affects all ages and regions in Texas, and that policymakers need a better understanding of the issue to determine the appropriate efforts necessary to decrease suicide rates and address the patchwork of laws, policies, programs, and efforts currently being used for that purpose.
By May 2020, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) must prepare a summary report on the prevalence of suicide and state efforts to prevent it. The report must:
- include available statewide and regional data on the prevalence of suicide-related events (including thoughts, attempts, and deaths) that is disaggregated by county and risk categories, and is longitudinal to identify the changes in rates since 2000;
- identify the highest risk categories with correlational data;
- list state efforts related to prevention, intervention, and postvention (activities that promote healing to reduce the risk of suicide by a person affected by the suicide of another); and
- describe state agency initiatives since 2000 to address suicide (including the administering state agency, funding sources, years of operation, and whether the initiative is or was community-based).
Using the above summary report, the Statewide Behavioral Health Coordinating Council must prepare a legislative report by November 2020 that identifies opportunities and makes recommendations for state agencies to: improve statewide and regional data collection on suicide-related events, use data to guide and inform decisions and policy development relating to suicide prevention, and decrease suicide while targeting the highest risk categories. To help prepare the legislative report, the Coordinating Council must establish a stakeholder workgroup, to at least include: representatives of groups with experience in suicide prevention and postvention activities in adult and juvenile justice settings, and in rural, urban, and suburban communities; and people involved in suicide prevention and postvention activities who have survived a suicide attempt or have lost a family member to suicide. – Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 6/14/2019
HB 4429 (Author: Blanco | Sponsor: Menéndez), Relating to mental health first aid training for veterans and immediate family members of veterans. Regarding Texas’ mental health program for veterans, the Texas Veterans Commission must, per this bill, coordinate local delivery of “mental health first aid for veterans” training to veterans and their immediate family members. Furthermore, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)’s mental health intervention program for veterans must include coordination of such training to veterans and their immediate family members. Annually, each Local Mental Health Authority (LMHA) must provide additional information to DSHS: the number of veterans and immediate family members of veterans who completed the veterans module of a mental health first aid training program offered by the LMHA during the preceding fiscal year. DSHS must in turn report that information to the Legislature each year. – Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019
HB 4468 (Authors: Coleman, Yvonne Davis, Collier | Sponsor: Whitmire), Relating to county jails and community mental health programs in certain counties. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) can award a grant to an entity (community collaborative) for the purpose of establishing a community mental health program in a county with less than 250,000 people. The entity must leverage additional funding from private sources in an amount equal to 25% of the amount of the grant to be awarded, and it must otherwise meets requirements related to providing evidence to DSHS of (1) local coordination in establishing or expanding a community collaborative, and (2) a local law enforcement policy to divert appropriate individuals from jails or other detention facilities to an entity affiliated with a community collaborative for the purpose of providing services. – Filed without the Governor’s signature; effective on 9/1/2019
Other, unrelated provisions of this bill are included in the section titled “Bills Related to Confinement in State or Local Corrections Facilities,” specifically in the sub-section on “County-Level Reforms.”
HCR 137 (Author: Hunter | Sponsor: Menéndez), Designating September as Suicide Prevention Month for a 10-year period beginning in 2019. In designating September as Suicide Prevention Month for the coming decade, this resolution recognizes that Texas experienced an 18.9% increase in suicide rates between 1999 and 2016; that suicides can be reduced by teaching coping and problem-solving skills, and that many individuals can find relief from depression and other emotional pressures through therapy; and that the public must be made aware of available treatment options, including psychological counseling, as well as suicide warning signs and intervention strategies. – Signed by the Governor
HCR 148 (Authors: Landgraf, Flynn, Miller, Tinderholt, Blanco | Sponsor: Campbell), Designating June as Veteran Suicide and PTSD Awareness Month for a 10-year period beginning in 2019. In designating June as Veteran Suicide and PTSD Awareness Month for the coming decade, this resolution recognizes that while 7-8% of the general population experiences PTSD at some point in their lives, veterans are afflicted at rates that range from 11-20%, which can manifest as substance abuse, depression, anger, and suicide. It notes that more than 6,000 veterans took their own lives each year from 2008 to 2016, which also impacts veterans’ families, friends, and communities, and that initiatives to expand treatment and prevention services can be furthered by increasing public awareness of the issue and by engaging the active support of a broad spectrum of concerned citizens. – Signed by the Governor
SB 306 (Author: Watson | Sponsor: Israel), Relating to the release by a peace officer of certain individuals suspected of the offense of public intoxication. In lieu of arresting an adult for public intoxication, a peace officer can release them if they verbally consent to voluntary admission to a sobering center, and the center admits them. A person’s release to a sobering center cannot be considered by a peace officer or magistrate in determining whether that person should be released to such facility for a subsequent public intoxication incident or arrest. – Filed without the Governor’s signature; effective immediately, 4/25/2019
SB 633 (Author: Kolkhorst | Sponsors: Lambert, Guillen), Relating to an initiative to increase the capacity of local mental health authorities to provide access to mental health services in certain counties. By January 2020, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) must identify each Local Mental Health Authority (LMHA) located in or providing services in a county with a population of 250,000 or less, assign them to regional groups of at least two LMHA’s, and notify each one of the assignment. HHSC must then develop a mental health services development plan for each LMHA group to increase LMHAs’ capacity to provide access to needed services. The plan must focus on reducing: costs to local governments of providing services to people in mental health crisis, transportation of people served to mental health facilities, county jail incarceration of people with mental illness in the area served, and the number of emergency room visits by people with mental illness in the area served. In developing the respective plans, HHSC and the LMHA group must evaluate measures necessary to ensure the plan aligns with the state’s current behavioral health strategic plan and comprehensive inpatient mental health plan.
HHSC must evaluate each LMHA group’s plan and determine its cost-effectiveness and how each plan would improve the delivery of mental health treatment and care to residents in the service area. By December 2020, HHSC must publish and post online a report containing each plan and its evaluation of it, and a statewide analysis of mental health services in counties with a population of 250,000 or less, with recommendations to the Legislature for implementing the plans. Plans that are evaluated can be implemented if HHSC and the LMHA group identify a funding method.
HHSC is required to implement provisions of this bill only if the Legislature appropriates money specifically for that purpose; if not, HHSC can – but is not required to – implement the bill using other appropriations available for that purpose. – Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 6/14/2019
SB 822 (Author: Nelson | Sponsor: Flynn), Relating to the administration of a grant program to support community mental health programs for veterans and their families. Prior to passage of this bill, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) was required to establish a grant program to support community mental health programs providing services and treatment to veterans and their families. This bill requires HHSC – as administrator of the grant program – to also ensure that each grant recipient obtains or secures contributions (e.g., cash or in-kind contributions from private contributors or local governments, not state or federal funds) to match awarded grants:
- For services and treatment provided in one county: HHSC must condition each grant on a potential grant recipient providing funds at least equal to (1) 50% of the grant amount if the community mental health program provides services and treatment in a county that has less than 250,000 people, or (2) 100% for a county that has 250,000 or more people.
- For a community mental health program that provides services and treatment in more than one county: HHSC must condition each grant on a potential grant recipient providing funds at least equal to (1) 50% of the grant amount if the largest county in which the program will provide services and treatment has less than 250,000 people, or (2) 100% if the largest county has 250,000 or more people.
Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 5/31/2019
SB 1180 (Author: Menéndez | Sponsor: Lopez), Relating to reporting regarding veterans treatment court programs. The Texas Veterans Commission must annually report the following information for the preceding state fiscal year: (1) the number of defendants who participated in each veterans treatment court program, and the number who successfully completed or did not successfully complete each program, and (2) the amount of grant funding received by each program. – Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019
SB 1636 (Author: Zaffirini | Sponsor: Price), Relating to an annual report prepared by the Health Professions Council. Beginning in February 2021, the Health Professions Council’s annual report must include strategies to expand Texas’ health care workforce, including: methods for increasing the number of health care practitioners providing mental and behavioral health care services, methods for reducing the time to process license applications for health care professions, and statutory and legislative appropriations recommendations for expanding the health care workforce, including in medically underserved areas. – Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 6/10/2019