This week, I filed House Bill 1623 that continues my work on improving the safety of our schools. Please see below for information on the new bill, as well as information on my past legislation that improves safety in our schools.
Last summer, Governor Abbott laid out his “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan.” One of the plan’s three sections, “Preventing Threats In Advance,” calls for improving mental and behavioral health systems in our schools. It was great to see the Governor taking action on this cause that I have worked my entire legislative career to advance.
The first recommendation under the section, “Preventing Threats In Advance” is to “Provide Mental Health Evaluations That Identify Students At Risk Of Harming Others And Provide Them The Help They Need.” The Governor specifically highlights how the Texas Tech Health Science Center’s Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project is working in the panhandle to intervene early with students who need help. In 2015, I joint-authoredHB 1878 (84R) with Representative Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), which made the project fiscally possible by reimbursing telemedicine services in schools through Medicaid.
Additionally, the TWITR program and similar programs received additional state funding through HB 13 (85R) by Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo) in 2017. This was the bill I was instrumental indeveloping during the 84th interim on the Select Committee on Mental Health, and helped it move out of the Public Health Committee during the 85th session.
The next recommendation was to “Increase Mental Health First Aid Training.” The Governor’s plan notes that, “[s]ince 2014, Texas has trained approximately 24,736 public school employees, 875 instructors, 503 university employees and 18,133 community members.” This training was first made possible because of HB 3793 (83R) that I authored in 2013. This training was expanded by companion bills HB 2220/SB 133 (84R) in 2015, authored by Senator Charles Schwertner (R- Georgetown) and I, which expanded Mental Health First Aid training to all school personnel. Furthermore, companion bills HB 2218/SB 674 (84R) authored by Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) and I, aligned mental health training for both new and old teachers; and SB 1533 (85R) by Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) which I joint-sponsored, expanded Mental Health First Aid training to university employees.
Moreover, Mental Health First Aid training has been so widespread because ofHB 1386 (82R), which I passed in 2011 that made several approved forms of Mental Health and suicide training for teachers optional. In 2013, Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) and I passed companion bills SB 460/HB 3224 (83R) that made those several approved forms of Mental Health and suicide prevention training for teachers mandatory. Without these bills, it is likely that many teachers and school personnel would not receive this vital training.
The next recommendation is to “Provide Schools with Behavioral Threat Assessment Programs.” In 2017, I authored HB 3887 (85R) which would have accomplished this by training teachers, counselors, nurses, administrators, and other staff, as well as law enforcement officers and social workers who regularly interact with students, to recognize children who are going through trauma and refer them to appropriate treatment. This bill passed out of the House, but was left pending in the Senate Committee on Education. I re-filed this bill and hope to see it advance this session.
The next recommendations are to “Better Utilize and Expand On-Campus Counseling Resources,” and to “Improve Mental Health Crisis Response Infrastructure.” Last session, I authored HB 3853 (85R) which would have ensured that every student in Texas would have access to a behavioral health professional at school. Unfortunately, this bill was left pending in the House Committee on Public Education. Additionally, Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) and I almost passed companion bills SB 196/HB1847 (85R) that would have required schools districts with over 10,000 students to notify parents if their child’s school did not have the equivalent of a full-time counselor. Regrettably, the Governor vetoed this bill.
The next recommendation is to “Expand Campus Crime Stoppers Programs.” Crime Stoppers is an effective program that I helped expand in 2015 by passing HB 3067 (84R), which allows counties of over 1 million people to provide four times as much money (from $25,000 to $100,000) to the program as they had previously allowed to do so.
This week, I filed House Bill 1623 that continues my work on improving the safety of our schools. Based on the recommendations in the interim report from the County Affairs Committee that I chair (click here to read), this bill enhances the trauma training for teachers to better recognize all trauma that can affect children. This is of particular importance because of the trauma many students’ experiences because of the Santa Fe shooting and Hurricane Harvey.
This bill also requires teacher get this important training every five years to ensure that all of our teachers are getting up to date and accurate training on the behavioral health needs of our children. Additionally, this bill adds accountability to our training as it requires our schools and school districts to report on information on the trained teachers.
As in the past, I will continue to work on these important issues and build upon laws I have already passed. I look forward to working with the Legislature during this session on improving mental and behavioral health and keeping our schools safe.
Coogs at the Capitol
House Committee on County Affairs
Changing Demographics Presentation
On Tuesday, Feb. 19th at 1:00pm or upon adjournment, the House Committee on County Affairs that I chair will host a special presentation on the demographic and political changes in Texas. Please see below for details.
This presentation will be given by Steve Murdock, Ph.D., Sociology, James Henson, Ph.D., Government, and Richard Murray, Ph.D., Political Science.
Chair Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)
The House Committee on County Affairs
Steve Murdock, Ph.D., former Director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census and first Texas State Demographer, Allyn R. and Gladys M. Cline Professor of Sociology at Rice University
James Henson, Ph.D., Director of The Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin
Richard Murray, Ph.D., Bob Lanier Chair in Urban Public Policy and Director of the Survey Research Institute and at the University of Houston
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 at 1:00pm or upon adjournment
John H. Reagan Building
1400 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
For more info, please contact my Capitol office at 512-463-0524.
Please Join Us on Tuesday & Wednesday:
HBO’s Traffic Stop Documentary Screenings
in Austin and Houston
Austin Justice Coalition, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, University of Texas Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis, Community Advocacy & Healing Project, Links Inc. Town Lake Chapter, Third Ward Community Cloth, Beta Psi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, & Houston Black Lives Matter.
TUESDAY, FEB. 19th | DOORS AT 5:30
The first screening will be held in the Texas Capitol in Austin on Tuesday, February 19th. Doors will open at 5:30pm and the screening will begin at 6:00pm, followed by the panel and an opportunity for a Q & A session.
FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 20th | DOORS AT 6:30
What To Watch This Week:
Cartoon of the Week
Song of the Week