As a Vietnam Veteran for the United States Marine Corps, I understand the difficult sacrifices that military men and women and their families endure on a daily basis, and the challenges they face when they return home.
I was honored to serve my country in time of war just as I am now honored to serve the people of Texas as a State Senator where I am able to work to improve health and mental services for our Veterans.
One of the highest priorities that members of the Texas Legislature have is our obligation to our service members, veterans, and their families. More than 1.7 million veterans live in Texas and we must work to meet their needs. As a veteran and the Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I am particularly proud of the 84th Legislature’s support for mental health services for veterans. Senate Bill 55, which I co-authored, creates the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance. This new and innovative program will support community mental health programs by providing access to the services and treatment veterans and military families need, when they need them.
The Texas Legislature appropriated $20 million to fund the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance program. These appropriations will be matched by local and private funds to provide $40 million in mental health support for veterans and their families. This program is unique as it will allow the state to partner with the private sector to tailor mental health programs that will meet the specific treatment needs of each community.
Texas Veterans + Family Alliance will begin with a pilot phase funded by $1 million in state appropriations, with a match of $1 million in local and private funds. The program will focus on community collaborations to address gaps in mental health services for veterans and their families. The Health and Human Services Commission will select projects to be funded by the pilot grant program through a competitive statewide request-for-proposal (RFP) process, with decisions on successful applicants being made in early 2016. Texas is partnering with a pilot program administrator, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, who will work with organizations to identify matching funds for the pilot project.
Access to efficient and effective mental health care is critical for all Texans, but we owe a unique debt to our veterans and their families, particularly those who have served and sacrificed for us in combat. Texas Veterans + Family Alliance is a bold initiative to address mental health needs in our local communities. I encourage you to learn more at www.texasstateofmind.org/tvfa.