Where in Texas there are gaps in access to mental health care for children

AUSTIN (Nexstar) – In the legislative year following a mass shooting at a school in 2018 in Santa Fe, Texas, state lawmakers created a multi-million dollar program designed to identify students in need and provide them with the mental health care they need.

State lawmakers have earmarked $ 100 million at 13 health-related universities to form the Texas Mental Health Consortium (TCMHCC) in 2019. It was created to “close the mental health care gaps for children and adolescents in Texas. Texas.

But its resources, which lawmakers point to as a means of preventing mass shootings, have not yet reached Uwalde.

The consortium was created with five initiatives:

  • create a Child Psychiatry Network (CPAN) to offer behavioral health services to children and provider training
  • offer telehealth services between health institutions and local school districts to identify and support students at risk
  • providing full-time psychiatrists to serve as academic medical directors in facilities managed by community mental health providers and new rotating positions of psychiatric residents in facilities
  • provide additional positions for scholarships in child and adolescent psychiatry in health-related institutions
  • develop a plan to coordinate mental health research across the country.

One of these programs, Access to Children’s Health in Texas through Telemedicine, or TCHATT, provides behavioral telehealth care at school to students in need. Through TCHATT, the consortium connects schools with a network of doctors, counselors and other mental health professionals at universities across the country.

However, this service is currently only available to 377 school districts out of more than 1,200 school districts in Texas. The Uvalde Consolidated School District is one of the areas not yet reached by TCHATT.

Dr Nitia Mani, associate director of TCHATT at Dell Medical School, said her region serves more than 200,000 students. She said the scope was not yet wide enough.

“We can always be more [districts]”Manny said, ‘We don’t have the funding to keep growing, because every time we go to a school district, they use us, and the number we’ve seen, the numbers are growing every semester.’

Manny stressed the importance of the partnership between the mental health consortium and the school districts, a relationship that is largely due to outreach.

“Our partnership with our schools is really one of the most important things we do,” Manny said. “We were amazed at how dedicated these school counselors are and how dedicated the teachers and staff are. Because they really know what’s going on with these students. “

Laura Cruzada-Davis, a spokeswoman for the consortium, said in an email that its resources had not yet reached Uvalde CISD, as UT-San Antonio “had not yet had the opportunity to meet with the Uvalde school district”.

TCHATT allows students to be guided by their parents, teachers, counselors if they are found to have mental health problems. Once the parents have given their consent, the TCHATT medical team will talk to the school staff.

Greg Hansch, executive director of the Texas head of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), said the consortium was generally leading the country in the right direction, but should have a wider reach.

“We are somewhat unique in having such a wonderful initiative available in our state. But it needs to be expanded – not enough schools have access to the consortium’s resources. ” Said Hansh.

Since its inception in 2019, the Children’s Mental Health Consortium has received more funding from the state legislature. Cruzada-Davis said in an email that the legislature had allocated an additional $ 230 million to the consortium in 2021 in a bid to expand the network.

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