The 2017 Texas Legislature passed legislation that directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to create a work group to study mental health access for first responders. Two of TEMSA’s board members served on the work group.
The work group released its recommendations for the 2019 Texas Legislature earlier this month. Click here to read the report.
The following is the report’s summary:
As stated earlier, this survey yielded results that provided a landscape assessment of first responders’ experience with access to mental health services in Texas. It is not intended to be an in-depth research study, nor does it pretend to offer a thorough analysis of the state of mental health care for first responders in Texas. It does however provide some insight into first responders’ perspectives on access to mental health care, gaps in accessing mental health care generally and differences based on a number of variables, such as first responder type, department size, and geographical location.
Generally, the survey found that large departments have more access to mental health care than small departments. It is also noted that first responders from large departments are provided more information about mental health services than small departments and are more aware of information and resources. Overall, there is a lack of knowledge and information across the board when it comes to the types of mental health services offered to first responders in their department. That is supported by the considerable amount of responses of, “I don’t know” on each question and non-responses. Overall survey respondents felt more often that their organizations encourage them to access mental health services.
The survey brings to light several points:
1. Further research is necessary to fully understand the different types and various points of access of mental health services available to first responders in Texas, and to measure the sufficiency of those services.
2. Work needs to be done to make information about mental health resources available and accessible to first responders, especially in smaller departments and in rural and frontier areas of the state.