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Relating to grants and programs for researching and treating behavioral health and psychiatric issues.
According to the Legislative Budget Board, the amount and number of grants distributed by the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing Grant Program and the Texas Behavioral Health Research Institute would have an undetermined fiscal impact to the state.
HB 10 would establish the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing Grant Program at the Higher Education Coordinating Board. This program would award grants to advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) educational institutions to support faculty salaries, increase number of enrollments and graduations of students, recruit child-adolescent psychiatrists to help provide clinical instruction, or establish or expand the number of postgraduate residency and fellowship training positions for APRNs to receive specialized training in child and adolescent psychiatry.
Additionally, HB10 would establish the Texas Behavioral Health Research Institute to address child and adolescent behavioral health needs. This institution would be comprised of health-related institutions of higher education (HRIs), the Health and Human Services Commission, a member of the public representing pediatricians, and a member of the public representing mental healthcare focused nonprofit organizations in the state. The institution would be tasked with providing grants to mental health education institutions and expanding or supporting peer-to-peer telemedicine between patients and medical professionals.
Texas Action does not support HB 10 based on the infringement of limited government by the creation of a board and program that is outside of the core functions of state government.
In addition to creating new programs, much of what this legislation proposes may already be done, and in fact is currently being done, under existing authority.
The TWITR Project of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is an example of a successful program currently in operation. The TWITR Project has used mental health screenings through telemedicine to provide psychiatric help to hundreds of children throughout the ten school districts it serves. It is notable that this program was implemented with a grant of only $565,000.
While we oppose the bill for the reasons stated above, there are some elements we support.
Telemedicine services offer a convenient, affordable way to access health care services, and could increase access to health care in more than 90% of Texas counties that are designated health professional shortage areas or medically underserved areas. Increasing access to mental health experts via telemedicine could help combat the shortage of mental health professionals in the state. Expanding access to telemedicine services is good public policy.
We also recognize that investing in preventative measures may lead to lower government spending in the future, including the cost of health care, special education, juvenile justice services, and decreased productivity. However, these potential savings remain speculative. Only time will tell whether the speculative savings materialize to offset the cost of the program.