Mental illnesses are treatable conditions, and when people receive the care and treatment they need, there is no limit to the heights they can reach. Unfortunately, decisions made at various levels of government oftentimes restrict, rather than expand, access to needed services and supports. These decisions include repeated funding cuts for public mental health services, low Medicaid reimbursement rates, and a lagging investment in the mental health workforce. The impact is then felt locally, by way of larger jail populations, more students exhibiting behavioral health issues in schools, and crowded emergency rooms.

There are a number of statistics that demonstrate this sobering reality:

  • Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14
  • Approximately 2/3 of the homeless in the Greater Houston area self-report a mental illness, with one-fifth admitting to chronic substance abuse
  • On any given day, about 2,100 inmates in the Harris County jail are receiving psychotropic medications

Even more sobering is the fact that real lives are affected by these statistics. Take Elizabeth McIngvale, who was ravaged by a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder before she even made 13. Or Dr. James McSwain, who actually allowed his son to remain in the Harris County Jail so he could receive needed mental health treatment. Or Brenda Bouie, who lived in Hermann Park for 17 years, largely due to her battle with Schizophrenia.

This book tells real stories about real people. With mental illness affecting 1 in 5 people, any one of these individuals could be your family member, your friend, or…even you. We all have a stake in expanding access to mental health services.

It is our hope that the 83rd Texas Legislature will rise to the challenge and ensure that mental health services and supports are available to all who need them.



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