Most people I know are disappointed with how divided politics have become. But as the 85th Legislature gets underway in Austin, there is a wonderful example of bipartisan cooperation that should make every Texan proud. Over the last several legislative sessions, lawmakers from both parties have come together to support better, more accessible and more affordable mental health care.
I experience this every day as CEO of Burke, the largest provider of these services in East Texas. Whether we are able to serve our clients depends in large part on how the legislature supports our work. And for the last ten years, our lawmakers have delivered.
The legislature has increased direct funding for mental health services around the state. It has helped organizations like Burke to tap into new funding sources, including new federal funds. And the results have been dramatic. We (and other organizations like us around Texas) are providing mental health services to more Texans, improving the quality and accessibility of our care and reducing or eliminating waitlists.
All of this is great news. However, as so many families know, the demand for these services keeps increasing. More and more people are learning that mental illness is something that deserves treatment, not shame. Families want their loved ones to have every shot at a healthy, happy and productive life.
So while we are thankful for our legislators’ support, we will continue to need it this session and in the future.
Despite our ability to serve more mental health clients, there simply aren’t enough inpatient psychiatric beds at state hospitals for patients who need that level of care. As a result, Burke is placing many people in private hospitals located miles away in the Houston or Dallas area. Not only are these services far from home, but they are also unfunded, leaving Burke to pick up the tab. Last year alone, Burke spent more than $1 million on private psychiatric inpatient treatment for our clients and didn’t receive any funding for it. This cost is unsustainable.
Our legislators are very engaged on this issue. They understand its importance. Our hope this legislative session is to work with them and our East Texas delegation to find creative and affordable ways to continue the services so many Texans need. In a time of political division, these services are something everyone can agree on.
Susan Rushing, CEO
More information on Burke’s Legislative Priorities view our legislative brief.