Houston Independent School District (HISD) is in the hot seat again, jeopardizing its progress with the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Click here to read the Houston Chronicle’s coverage. More on this controversy soon.

Today, Saturday Oct. 13th at 4:15, there will be a Protect Our Progress Coalition Press Conference at Emancipation Park Plaza Area at nue. The public is invited. 

Mental Health Care in Texas

Chairman of the County Affairs Committee Garnet Coleman and Committee members heard testimony regarding behavioral health and services in the Criminal Justice System during the September 26th County Affairs hearing in Austin. This is Charge #3 from House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio).  Click here for more information on the important hearing.

From left to right: Representative Kyle Beidermann (R-New Braunfels), Vice-Chair Drew Springer (R-Muenster), Committee Director Nick Kalla, Chairman Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), Chair of the Calendars Committee Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), and Representative Tomas Uresti (D-San Antonio).

Wednesday was World Mental Health Day

According to our allies at National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 Americans is affected by a mental health condition. However, most people with mental health conditions can live full and productive lives with proper treatment. Regrettably, in Texas and across the United States, there is a lack of access to mental health care. That is why I have dedicated my career as a legislator to improving mental health care in Texas.

Below, you will find a list of policies that I have passed to improve mental health care in our statebut still more needs to be done. We need to continue building on what we have done by creating better criminal justice diversion programs so that people can be better identified and connected to the right resources instead of put in jail where they will begin a downward spiral.

Downward spirals cause many people to end up jobless and homeless. That is why diversion to treatment in the criminal justice system must be a main focus of helping turn the lives around of people who are forced to live on the streets.

A key component to doing this is continuing to fund Healthy Community Collaboratives and jail diversion programs. I started the legislative action on Healthy Community Collaboratives back in 2009, recommended them in our County Affairs Committee interim report to the 82nd Texas Legislature, and passed the $25 million in funding in 2013 (please see below for more information). Last biennium, I helped get $92.5 million in matching grants set aside in the budget to help expand these programs across the state. This is a great start, but there are still many areas of the state that have no place to divert people to. Additionally, if all the areas currently receiving funding do not continue to receive funds, all their progress will come to a halt. This next session, I will fight to make sure this funding is kept in the budget and increased so that all Texans can get quality care, regardless of their zip code.

I will also build on my past legislation, such as the mental health training for teachers I passed in 2011. I have already built on it in passing SB 560 by Senator Bob Deuell (R-Edgewood) in 2013I wrote the companion bill, HB 3224which made it mandatory for schools to implement these intervention plans so that all teachers will be trained to recognize early warning signs of bullying, substance abuse, and mental illness.

That is why if re-elected, I will continue to work to get things done with both my Democratic colleagues and across the aisle with Republican leaders like Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo) and Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond). As you can read below, I have a track record of improving mental health care in Texas.

Below, you will also find information on next week’s County Affairs Committee hearing that I chair. At the committee hearing we will be discussing what can further be done to improve behavioral health care in the criminal justice system, and getting an update on the new Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center in Houston.

Pictured above: The Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center. Mental health diversion centers like this are a critical part of the Healthy Community Collaboratives and jail diversion programs, which I started legislative action on in 2009. We recommended them in our County Affairs Committee interim report to the 82nd Texas Legislature and passed the $25 million in funding in 2013.
Photo source: Houston Chronicle

Rep. Coleman’s Mental Health Care Achievements

Mental Health Parity
In 1997, I wrote and passed HB 1173, a partial mental health parity law that requires most Texas insurance plans to offer coverage for serious mental disorders. Until the passage of the Affordable Care Act, this law was stronger than relevant federal laws, making Texas a surprising leader on this issue. I helped to improve parity law during the 85th Session in 2017 by passing HB 10 that I joint-authored with Chairman Four Price (R-Amarillo).

     Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center crisis intervention chart.

Crisis Intervention Training
In 2005Senator Jon Lindsey (R-Houston) and I passed SB 1473 (I wrote the companion bill HB 2524) which requires all Texas police officers to undergo crisis intervention training so that they are equipped with the skills to de-escalate potentially violent situations involving individuals with a mental illness.

Mental Health Courts
Also in 2005Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) and I passed HB 2518 that I wrote, allowing county commissioners courts to establish mental health court programs for both felony and misdemeanor charges. This bill is unique in that it allows for courts to serve Texans who are mentally ill and have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. The goal is to divert certain individuals away from the criminal justice system and into a more appropriate treatment program, ending the cycle of mental illness and criminal behavior.

Suicide Prevention/Anti-Bullying
In 2011, I wrote and passed HB 1386, which recognizes the threat of bullying, mental illness, and emotional trauma among students and allowed schools to implement best-practice-based programs to combat that harm. HB 1386 requires the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Education Agency to establish and annually update a list of best practice-based early mental health and suicide prevention intervention programs to be implemented by school districts. This legislation was dedicated to every child who has fallen victim to emotional trauma and arose in response to the spate of adolescent suicides across the country due to bullying.

In 2013, I worked with Senator Van Taylor (R-Plano) to pass SB 831 (I wrote the companion bill, HB 3327), expanding early intervention programs to include substance abuse. Senator Bob Deuell (R-Edgewood) and I passed SB 560  (I wrote the companion bill, HB 3224) making it mandatory for schools to implement these intervention plans so that all teachers are trained to recognize early warning signs of bullying, substance abuse, and mental illness.

Also in 2013, I wrote and passed a County Omnibus bill (HB 3793), which includes language from Senator Charles Schwertner’s (R-Georgetown) SB 955 allowing the Health and Human Services Commission to grant funds to schools to pay for Mental Health First-Aid Training for their teachers.

Also included in my County Omnibus bill from 2013 (HB 3793) is language from SB 1352/HB 2477 by Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and Representative Carol Alvarado (D-Houston)This language directs local school health advisory committees to include mental health recommendations in their recommendations for coordinated health curricula.

Rep. Coleman was awarded the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute Legislative Champion Award in 2017 for his commitment to improving mental health care in Texas.

Healthy Community Collaboratives
After the 81st session, the House Committee on County Affairs that I chair proposed a model for community health collaboratives, such as San Antonio’s Haven for Hope, and recommended that these centers be established across the state. We used language from our interim study to craft the bill and ensured the money to help roll them out. Chair John Davis (R-Houston), a former member of the County Affairs Committee, took the lead to secure $25 million over the biennium to fund this statewide model. This money helps fund community centers that provide healthcare, shelter, and services to homeless Texans.

I expanded this effort again in 2017 by helping pass a total of $92.5 million to fund healthy community collaboratives, which helps divert people suffering from mental illness or substance abuse out of the criminal justice system and into treatment.

Mental Health Peer Support
“Peer support” is an incredible model that involves partnering an individual suffering from a mental illness with a peer who has “been there before.” That peer understands the challenges associated with juggling a mental illness while trying to get their life back on track after imprisonment. I added a rider to the 2016-17 budget that directs up to $1,250,000 for the Department of State Health Services to implement a mental health peer support re-entry program for mentally ill Texans who are trying to reintegrate into society after their incarceration. The program reduces recidivism, maintains a continuity of care for the individual with a mental illness, and greatly helps former prisoners get back on their feet.

Reducing the Stigma of Mental Illness
The application for a driver’s license previously asked if an individual had ever been “diagnosed with, treated for, or hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder.” Even if a diagnosis had no impact on applicant’s ability to drive, answering “yes” could have delayed an application for months, prolonging the time before the applicant can go on with a normal life. I wrote and passed HB 2216 with Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale) in the 84th legislature limiting the question to ask only whether the applicant has a mental illness that affects their ability to drive. This brings the mental health inquiry into line with the physical health inquiry.

Supporting Mental Health Professionals
In 2015HB 2434/SB 239 contained one of the recommendations from an interim report conducted by my County Affairs Committee that helped increase the number of mental health professionals in Texas. Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) authored the Senate bill, and I joined Representative Zerwas (R-Richmond) as a joint sponsor on it. This legislation encourages mental health professionals to practice in areas of Texas that desperately need their services by assisting in loan repayment.

Also in 2015, I wrote and passed HB1924, alleviating the problem of insufficient availability of psychological professionals in the state by giving supervising psychologists the ability to bill insurance companies for the services provided by pre-doctoral interns. These interns already have years of training and already help patients; this legislation allows them to bill through insurance plans. This enables psychologists to hire more interns and directly increases the number of qualified mental health professionals in the state. Since most newly-licensed psychologists choose to practice near the area where they intern, increasing the number of internships available in Texas encourages more of our own graduates to practice here and help our state meet the high demand for care.

County Affairs Hearing in Houston

On Wednesday, October 17th, the County Affairs Committee that I chair is holding a hearing on four interim charges. The hearing will be held at the Coleman Tower at Houston Community College John B. Coleman M.D. College for Health Sciences, located at 1919 Pressler Street in Houston at NOON.

The Committee will meet to hear invited and public testimony on the following interim charges:
Charge #1
Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate.

Charge #2
Evaluate whether counties have the necessary ordinance-making and enforcement authority to deal with flood risk in unincorporated rural and suburban areas of Texas. Additionally, examine whether counties have adequate resources and authority to ensure that new development in unincorporated areas is not susceptible to flooding.

Charge #3
Study how counties identify defendants’ and inmates’ behavioral health needs and deferral opportunities to appropriate rehabilitative and transition services. Consider models for ensuring defendants and inmates with mental illness receive appropriate services upon release from the criminal justice system.

Charge #5
Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Legislature

Round 48 Opening & Block Party
Celebrating Project Row Houses
25th Anniversary

Click here for more information.

TONIGHT at 7pm in Emancipation Park:
Jazz in the Tre featuring Internationally Renowned Pianist and Composer
Jason Moran from the Greater Third Ward

This event is FREE.
Click here for more information.


On behalf of the Texas State Legislature, the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) is seeking nominations for the positions of 2019 and 2020 State Poet Laureate, State Musician, State Artist two-dimensional media (i.e., painting, photography), and State Artist three-dimensional media (i.e., sculpture). Monday, October 15th is the deadline for nominations for the next Texas State Musicians, Texas Poet Laureates, and Texas State Artists 2D & 3D.
  • Any Texan can submit a nomination.
  • You can submit multiple nominations, so you don’t have to pick just one artist to nominate.
  • Self-nominations are welcome.
  • Nominees must still be living to be considered.
  • All qualified nominees must be native Texans or five-year residents of the state.
  • Candidates must have received recognition for high levels of excellence and success in their respective disciplines. 
  • Candidates must have received critical reviews in state, regional or national publications.
Chosen artists will join the company of previous state artists such as Willie Nelson, Dario Robleto, Dean Young, and Kathy Vargas and receive statewide recognition. Texas State Artists also have the opportunity to participate in TCA events and promotions, including participation on TCA’s Texas Touring Roster and other state initiatives in relation to their respective arts discipline.

Next Thursday:
Hobby Symposium Series

“Better Brains, Better Policies, Better Futures”

Next Thursday, I will be speaking at a legislative roundtable event with Representative Sarah Davis (R-Houston) and Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood)  at the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs. This is a FREE event – click here to register.

I am proud to see the University of Houston Hobby School flourish after I helped create it in 2013 by getting half a million dollars set aside in the Texas budget to create a graduate school of public policy at the University of Houston.

The event, “Better Brains, Better Policies, Better Futures”, explores how the science of early childhood brain development can inform policy-making, and aims to identify the most cost-effective and successful policies for supporting young children’s healthy growth.

October 18, 2018


Student Center – University of Houston

Welcome Center Garage

Black Census Project Comes to Houston

Houston Justice is teaming up with Black Futures Lab and other organizations to bring The Black Census Project to Houston.

It’s a national survey gathering information for an accurate understanding of the diversity of our communities, of the diversity of issues that Black communities care about most, and of the innovative ideas and vision for how to transform our country.  

Black people are often spoken about or spoken for but Black people are rarely listened to.

The Black Census Project aims to set the record straight.

In order to give Black people an opportunity to speak for ourselves, the Black Census Project will conduct the biggest national survey of Black people across class, disability, gender, geography, immigration status, and sexuality. The collected information will clarify the diversity of wants and needs that Black people imagine for our communities.

This survey, the largest of Black people in recent history, will capture a more accurate picture of who we are and what we care about. The Black Census asks Black communities what we see as the key issues in our communities and asks us about what we think needs to be done to address those issues, so that our lives can change for the better.

Cartoon of the Week

Source: Tom Toles  | Copyright 2017 | Universal Press Syndicate

What To Watch

Our “What to Watch” of the week is a PBS News Hour segment with bestselling author Michael Lewis. In his new book, “The Fifth Risk,” Lewis examines how the Trump administration has been staffing the federal government, and its “ignorance of the mission.”



Song of the Week

Our song of the week is “Vote ‘Em Out” by Willie Nelson.

Categories: archived