Sen. Jane Nelson at White House

Pictured are, from left, moderator Steve Wagner, deputy assistant to the president, Domestic Policy Council; Lori Criss, director, Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services; Jane Nelson, senator, Texas Senate District 12; Helen Stone, County Commissioner, Chatham County, Georgia.

Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, served as a panelist this week at the White House Summit on Transforming Mental Health Treatment to Combat Homelessness, Violence, and Substance Abuse to discuss innovative ways Texas is addressing mental health challenges.

"In Texas we recognized long ago that, left unaddressed, mental health conditions present themselves in our jails and hospitals – the most costly and often least effective ways to treat them," said Nelson, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.  "Our approach centers around four key pillars: treatment before tragedy; maximize resources; improve  coordination; and reduce stigma through education." 

In her remarks, Nelson – who was the longest-serving chair of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee before being named finance chair six years ago – noted that Texas is spending $8 billion across 23 state agencies for mental health over the next two years, and she urged attendees to look beyond the Health and Human Services budget in addressing mental health. 

"When I became Finance chair, I began to see how much mental health was costing us in our  jails, our courts, our schools and several other areas of state government," she said.  In 2015, Nelson established the Texas Statewide Behavioral Health Coordinating Council and directed the 23 agencies to meet regularly and develop a strategic plan – an effort that "identified inefficiencies, eliminated duplications, broke down agency silos and improved the coordination of care for individuals," she said."

She also overviewed Texas programs to help veterans and their families, including peer counseling and treatment for post-traumatic stress, depression and other challenges, fight opioid abuse, and provide jail diversion to allow low-level offenders the opportunity to avoid jail time in exchange for completing treatment programs.  As author of the legislation creating the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, Senator Nelson also described Texas' newly established effort to provide early intervention for young people at risk of suicide, substance abuse or becoming a danger to themselves or others.

Nelson was selected as one of four speakers to serve on the State & Community Reform Panel.  Approximately 180 elected officials, experts, and advocates from around the country attended the summit, including Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute President & CEO Andy Keller.  "It was a privilege to be there to hear Senator Nelson talk with national leaders about her thoughtful and proactive approach that has put Texas at the forefront in improving mental health care delivery," Keller said.  "Texas has steadily transformed our mental health systems under Senator Nelson’s leadership. The amazing progress stemming from her unwavering commitment is no secret to Texans. With yesterday’s platform at the White House, the nation now knows the same."

The summit included a surprise visit from President Donald Trump, who spoke immediately after the reform panel. 

"My administration is strongly committed to helping Americans suffering from mental illness," he said.

To watch a replay, visit C-span.org.  Photos, as well as a complete list of summit participants, are attached.

Nelson represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the highest-ranking Republican in the Texas Senate.

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