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Background

The Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium (TCMHCC) was created by the 86th Texas Legislature in Senate Bill 11 (SB 11) to address gaps in mental health care for children and adolescents in Texas. Through the TCMHCC, the legislature has provided Texas a unique opportunity to implement evidence-based programs through the collaboration of the state’s health-related academic institutions (HRIs), state agencies and health-focused nonprofits.

Based on a 2016 study, 834,941 Texas adolescents (ages 13-17) experience at least one mental health condition and/or substance use disorder per year. Recent data from the 2019 Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) has shown a 38% increase in the last decade in youth reporting that they have felt sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks during the previous 12 months, and Texas exceeded the national average of youth reporting a suicide attempt resulting in medical treatment (2.1% versus 1.9%). The YRBSS data also found that 18.9% of high school students had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months.

Additionally, across the United States the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of children and youth. According to a November 2020 report from the CDC, the proportion of children’s mental health-related Emergency Department (ED) visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated from April through October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children ages 5–11 and 12 17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.

Limited access to mental health care is likely a contributing factor to the scale of unmet needs. For example, only 34% of Texas adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder reported accessing mental health treatment, in contrast to 40% across the U.S. In a 2020 report on access to mental health care for both adolescents and adults across the country, Texas ranked 51st. This access challenge is caused, in part, by significant mental health workforce shortages, evidenced by Texas’ ranking as one of the top five states in the estimated shortage of pediatric psychiatrists. Demand for psychiatrists in Texas exceeded supply by 1,067 FTEs in 2017, and the shortage is projected to grow to 1,208 FTEs by 2030.

The TCMHCC was created by the 86th Texas Legislature in SB 11 to address these gaps in mental health care for children and adolescents in Texas. The goal of the TCMHCC is to:

  • Expand the workforce of psychiatric providers through additional training opportunities and fellowship programs;
  • Connect psychiatric specialists with those frontline workers, including PCPs and school counselors, who are most likely to encounter and identify children with mental health challenges; and
  • Expand the evidence base of best practices in treatment for children and adolescents.