August 25, 2022
Judge Lina Hidalgo along with several local members of congress today introduced a $14.3 million initiative aimed at combating the growing mental health crisis and an additional $7.5 million to address nutritional and food insecurity. Through a multi-million dollar allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the Behavioral and Mental Health Program will increase access to mental health services, with a focus on expanding counseling for youth and their families, before mental health issues become debilitating or a crisis for individuals.
“We are aggressively addressing a crisis that has plagued many of our communities for too long, and has had an especially devastating and heartbreaking effect on children and youth,” said Judge Hidalgo. “Mental health services are fundamental to the overall health and well-being of our county’s youth, families, and all individuals throughout different stages of their lives. We are committed to providing young people and families with the resources they need to thrive for today and in the years to come.”
Funding will increase the quantity of trained mental health providers so they are better able to retain and hire more trained staff. The initiative will also recruit more high school and college students into the mental health profession. Further, the program will help connect residents with additional mental health and substance abuse to resources that will aid in their recovery.
“Ensuring our communities have the proper resources necessary to care for both mental health crises and food scarcity is essential for vibrant and healthy neighborhoods,” said Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia. “These $20 million in funds were made possible by President Biden’s ARPA funding. That’s why I strongly supported, and voted for, ARPA in Congress. I knew it would help countless families and children like ours in Harris County. This is yet another example of the good that happens when we put people over politics.”
According to CDC data, in 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year. With these additional dollars, Harris County is investing more resources for youth who face mental health challenges through targeted programs focused on developing and maintaining positive coping skills.
“I am proud to have joined Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo today to announce over $21 million for a new Harris County initiative that may save lives addressing behavioral, mental, and nutritional health. These funds were made possible through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to help Harris County residents including by expanding counseling services for youth and families, increasing the amount of licensed behavioral health providers available, as well as provide overdose prevention and harm reduction services,” Congressman Al Green said. “I thank Judge Hidalgo for her leadership on this issue and look forward to seeing the positive impact this initiative will have on the physical, mental, and nutritional health of Harris County residents.”
Texas ranks last among all other states when it comes to access to mental health support services. In the last year, the state cut $117 million in mental health funding, further increasing the gap between support services and the individuals who depend on them.
Since taking office, Judge Hidalgo has been working to help improve lives for Harris County families and children. From groundbreaking initiatives, like the Brighter Futures for Harris County Kids program, which has invested more than $80 million dollars in early childhood education, childcare, and maternal health, to the $1.4 billion dollars allocated towards crime prevention and justice programs, Harris County is making unprecedented investments to promote the health and wellbeing of residents.
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