Mental Health Legislations in Denton County

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Lynn Stucky was elected Texas House of Representative of District 64 in 2016, and is currently serving his first term in office. According to Representative Lynn Stucky’s website, he is passionate about education and child welfare reform. Lynn Stucky is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and is a long-time veterinary volunteer for Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo events. During his tenure, he has voted in favor of the two important mental health bills, House Bill 10 and House of Representatives bill 1211 to improve mental health services and treatment. Mental health is a frequently discussed topic in Denton County. Many individuals are directly affected by mental health issues both financially and from the lack of services. For example, an article published in the Denton Record Chronicle July 2018, profiled a young lady and her mother, the Dankos. Ms. Margaret Danko discussed the many issues surrounding mental health services.

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Danko left Tennessee in hopes of accessing suitable services for her daughter. However, she faced many challenges from non-profit agencies such as Denton County MHMR. Essentially, her daughter did qualify for services, but the Dankos were not contacted months after receiving a letter saying her daughter qualified. Denton County MHMR is a grant-funded mental health program. Essentially, Ms. Danko’s daughter would have qualified for services with the assistance from a private insurance company as suggested by the HB 10 legislature. Waiting lists, the lack of funding, etc., prevents consumers from accessing health services. House Bill 10 addresses the current mental health needs of low socioeconomic residents of Texas relating to access to benefits for mental health and substance abuse disorders. The bill outlines a strategic method for modifying mental health treatment and services. The legislation requires the state to implement a commission to evaluate the implantation of the bill. “The commission compares medical, surgical, and/or behavioral health benefits provided by health benefit plan issuers” (HB10 pg. 10). In addition to a commission, an ombudsman and work group have been established to address and assess mental health community deficiencies.

Denton County residents face many challenges with seeking mental health treatment and substance abuse services. “The ombudsman helps uninsured and insured consumers and behavioral health care providers plan and find an access to behavioral health care, including treatment for mental health conditions and substance use disorders” (HB10 pg.5). Accessing such services are difficult to secure for uninsured residents. Mental health and substance abuse treatment is difficult to find in Denton County without health insurance. If patients do not meet certain criteria, then they do not get help. The ombudsman can benefit those without insurance. The ombudsman is required to monitor and report any potential violations of state or federal regulations to the Texas Department of Insurance. For example, if there are any inappropriate care or commitment to mental health care patients they are violating the duties listed in the bill. The Texas Department of Insurance would then receive these reports of concerns. Establishing a work group is essential to understanding the federal, state rules, and benefits for mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders. The work groups are composed of representatives that will sit and make recommendations to the ombudsman.

Many of the representatives are from Medicaid, Office of Mental Health Coordination, Texas Department of Insurance and other government affiliated offices. “The work groups will engage in a dialogue about consumer needs, while providing research data. The work group includes the ombudsman, various mental health and substance use disorder consumers, advocates, providers and professionals, and representatives from health benefit plans and state agencies” (HB10 pg.5). Work groups would meet quarterly to discuss community mental health needs while making recommendations to further correct the ombudsman. Representative Stucky’s support of H.B.10 is indicative of his passion for mental health treatment. House of Representatives bill 1211 addresses the mental health needs of children. This bill seeks to improve clinical assessment availability and treatment services to students who are a danger to themselves and others. The purpose of this bill is to “increase funding for access to mental health services and support, providing inclusive staff development for the school and community, and training for children with mental health disorders” (HR 1211 pg. 1).

This bill is currently in subcommittee and has not yet gone into effect. If passed, there will be training for the parents, siblings, other family members, and community members to help children with mental health needs. Personally, I have family members who have been significantly impacted by the lack of mental health services in Denton County. Carol Hanisch would say, “The personal is political,” which refers to how individuals become passionate about community issues based on their personal experiences. Many times, those most negatively impacted are living in low-socioeconomic communities are unable to afford health services. Representative Stucky voted in favor of both the HB 10 and HR 1211. Stucky’s votes shows he invested in improving mental health for Texans. Though I do not agree with Representative Stucky’s position on several bills, I admire his passion for securing mental health services and treatment for an oppressed population. His interest for mental health is why I would vote for him in the upcoming election.

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