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Public School Mental Health Task Force

Mental Health America of Greater Houston’s HB 906 created the Public School Mental Health Task Force model during the 86th legislative session. Task Force Chair, Annalee Gulley is the Director of Public Policy at Mental Health America of Greater Houston. Also on the Task Force is Rebecca Fowler, Public Policy and Engagement Strategist at Mental Health America of Greater Houston. The Task Force is committed to championing legislation to affect positive change on mental and behavioral health issues in Texas. The fight to ensure critical funding to support mental and behavioral health services throughout the Greater Houston Area will be tougher—and more important—than ever. 

Please click here to see our Legislative Agenda for the 85th Texas State Legislature.

To read more about our progress, please see our archive of weekly Legislative Updates below. To be added to our mailing list or to join the Advocacy Task Force,  please email Public Policy and Engagement Strategist, Rebecca Fowler at rfowler@mhahouston.org.

Mental health has far-reaching implications for Texas students and, therefore, for Texas schools. Mental health concerns among students are common across the state. These concerns can range from a diagnosable mental health disorder to more universal need for support of social and emotional well-being.

  • In 2019, almost two in every five Texas high school students reported experiencing feelings of sadness or hopelessness almost daily for two or more weeks within the past year.
  • In 2019, one in five children in Texas aged 0–17 were estimated to have two or more adverse childhood experiences that may have a lasting impact on their emotional, cognitive, social, and biological functioning.
  • In 2019, one in ten high school students in Texas reported attempting suicide within the last year.
  • Nearly half of individuals with chronic mental disorders experience an onset of symptoms by age 14.

 

 

Task Force Recommendations 

 

Short-Term Recommendations

  1. TEA should have statutory authority to select or develop a statewide climate survey and data collection and reporting system. This should result in a common climate measure for schools across the state. The survey suite should include developmentally-appropriate versions completed by students, families, and school personnel.
  2. At the request of the Task Force, TEA shall conduct a survey of schools in fiscal year 2021 to document the current landscape of mental health services and supports in schools and identify what data elements may be currently tracked in most schools. Results of the survey would inform the Task Force’s evaluation plan and the structure of the future reporting system. 
  3. The Task Force strongly recommends that the legislature update HB 906 [TEC Sec. 38.308] evaluation metrics in the upcoming legislative session. TEA should collaborate with the Task Force to determine possible points of alignment between Task Force evaluation metrics and those used by TEA in the Safe and Supportive School Program.
  4. The Task Force — with support from TEA — should study the roles and responsibilities of professional school counselors and the proportion of time dedicated to each role/responsibility.

Long-Term Recommendations

  1. TEA should develop a state system for reporting of professional development. 
  2. The Task Force recommends that the Texas Legislature consider funding a state center on school mental health or a consortium of higher education institutes that would provide training and technical assistance around best practices and their implementation, funding, collecting data and measuring outcomes, and facilitate research on effective practices that can be scaled and shared in Texas.