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Texas lawmakers hear mental health concerns

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2013 at 6:45 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When treatment center coordinator Amy Pierce thinks back to her descent into mental illness, she recalls the attempts she made to take her own life. But she also remembers the counseling services that saved her.

Pierce spoke at a rally Thursday at the Texas Capitol, where she and others pushed for more mental health treatment.

"Those services cost money up front, but now I was paying taxes, I was paying back," said Pierce, who works at a treatment center near Austin. "I was learning how to live."

After years of declining financial support for mental health treatment, advocates are hoping recent attention on the issue will lead to improvements in the funding in Texas. Mental health has been gaining more attention in the wake of a rampage that left 20 children and six adults dead at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school and other shootings.

Pierce and others argue that more treatment will actually save Texas in the long run by reducing crime, homelessness and unemployment. The Senate Finance Committee accepted a recommendation for the state to add another $195 million to the $2 billion it currently spends for mental health services.

Texas spends $39 per capita on mental health services every year, compared to a national average of $121, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only Idaho spends less.

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