Mental health experts in Texas are seeking to alleviate demand for health services in the state’s rural areas. Meanwhile, the state is struggling with a fentanyl overdose crisis that has affected large portions of the nation. Here’s a look at these, and other, behavioral health stories in Texas.
Rural Libraries in Texas Offer Mental Health Help
In Central Texas, a new program called Libraries for Health is hoping to connect rural residents with mental health care. The health-related non-profit St. David’s Foundation is partnering with eight local libraries to help close the gap between mental health care demand and a lack of providers.
Libraries for Health will place non-clinical mental health workers in libraries to interact with library visitors. These workers can get help for patrons in crisis and offer assistance to those with less urgent mental health concerns. Funding is provided by the St. David’s Foundation and the Rand Corporation.
Mental Health Telemedicine Helped Teens in 24 School Districts
Since 2014, the TWITR (Telemedicine, Wellness, Intervention, Triage and Referral) Project has helped students in 24 Texas school districts who are at risk of endangering themselves or others. Under TWITR, licensed professional counselors travel to participating schools, meet with students and families, screen them, and then arrange telemedicine appointments with a psychiatrist if warranted. Principal Miguel Salazar at Ralls High School says the program has helped improve student attendance and reduce the need for disciplinary actions.
This project is the creation of a team of mental health professionals from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. The Office of Texas Governor Criminal Justice Division Juvenile Justice Grant Program, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and TTUHSC all help fund the program. The Texas Governor’s office has asked TWITR to develop a model that could be applied to schools across the state.
Texas County and Locality to Receive Opioid Settlement Funds
Tarrant County and the city of Fort Worth in Texas could soon receive millions of dollars in settlements from opioid manufacturers and distributors. Texas has reached a $225 million settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals, and is in negotiations in other settlements. The state, along with Tarrant County and Fort Worth, plan to use a portion of the funds to purchase and distribute naloxone, which first responders use to reverse overdoses.
Texas Governor Pushing for Harsher Measures Against Fentanyl
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced in March that he is pushing for harsher prosecutions for individuals who sell or give out non-prescription fentanyl. This move comes as Texas cities, as part of a national trend, are seeing an increase in fentanyl overdoses.
Abbott has blamed the rise in Texas on loose border security, while the Texas Harm Reduction Office argues for safe injection sites and other resources that reduce overdoses. Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Abbot said that fentanyl was the leading cause of death for 18 to 45 year olds in 2021.
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