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Community leaders call for more mental health services

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TWC News: Community leaders call for more mental health services
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Texas is at the bottom of the list when it comes to funding mental health services.

When public health consultant Joseph Collins walks the streets of East Austin, he says he sees “a lot of suffering” from untreated mental illness.

The state spends more than $1 billion a year on mental health services, which is about $40 per person every year. The national average is $120. Collins says Texas isn’t doing enough.

"I think it results in increased incarceration, increased homelessness, families that are in crisis because they have someone that's mentally ill," Collins said. "We're saving nickles and dimes and were paying for it in other areas."

Last year, the Department of State Health Services estimated almost half a million Texans had serious and persistent mental health problems.

The department was only able to help 30 percent, leaving 10,000 people on the waiting list for ongoing community health services last year.

State Rep. Elliott Naishtat worries about looming budget cuts next legislative session.

"We need 80 million more just to deal with the waiting list issue. The governor directed every state agency to cut its requests by 10 percent, so you see there's a potential problem there," he said.

Naishtat and community activists say putting more money towards mental health services will save taxpayers money in the long run.

"Thousands and thousands of people with persistent and serious mental health issues will end up on the streets where many of them are or in prison," he said.

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