HOUSTON - Local elected officials, law-enforcement officers and community advocates said Friday that the state of Texas needs to increase the amount of money that is spent on mental health care.
Pointing to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., state Rep. Sylvester Turner said Texas can no longer afford to ignore a potential threat to public safety.
"We can argue about guns. We can argue about that, but there should be no disagreement that mental health illness is something we can treat and provide infrastructure for it. Texas currently ranks dead last in the amount of money spent on diagnosing and treating people with mental health issues."
Mental illness affects entire families, not just the person with it.
"The illness disrupts lives and robs people of hopes and dreams," said the mother of a mental illness patient.
The impact on families is also shared by taxpayers. Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said his officers answered 27,000 calls for service in 2012 that involved people with mental health issues.
"Our jails and facilities are not designed to incarcerate people suffering from mental illness," he said.
Turner wants lawmakers to approve $250 million to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. He said that will help prevent a tragedy from happening in Texas.
"If we don't do significantly more in this upcoming session, it may be a matter of time before some tragedy finds its way to your doorstep," Turner said.
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