Texas leaders allocate $100.5M for school safety, mental health ahead of 2023 legislative session

ByHannah Norton via Community Impact Newspaper logo
Friday, July 1, 2022
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Just over one month after the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, leaders announced on June 28 the transfer of over $100 million in funding for increased school safety and mental health programs across the state.

A total of $100.58 million will go toward a variety of agencies and programs, including a maximum of $5 million to the Hill Country Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Center. The center is tasked with "evaluating mental health services in the Uvalde community" and providing the Texas Legislature with an assessment of the community's needs, according to a news release. According to the Hill Country Center's website, the organization has three service areas in Uvalde County.

The $100.58 million in funding will come from a budget surplus in the Foundation School Program, which works to ensure all Texas school districts receive equal funding. This will therefore not impact current school operations or funding, according to a budget execution order from the governor's office.

On top of the $5 million for mental health in Uvalde, the funds will be allocated in the following ways:

  • $50 million for bullet-resistant shields, which will be distributed to school police officers and other law enforcement officers who respond to school safety incidents;
  • $5.8 million to expand statewide access to the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine program;
  • $4.7 million for the Health and Human Services Commission to expand multisystemic therapy, a family- and community-focused treatment program for youth who have committed violent offenses, have serious substance abuse issues and more;
  • $950,000 for the HHSC to broaden coordinated specialty care at the early onset of psychosis;
  • $7 million for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center, which provides research-based active shooter training and resources;
  • $3 million to offset travel costs for law enforcement agencies that participate in ALERRT training;
  • $7 million to help the Texas School Safety Center evaluate issues with access controls and security on school campuses;
  • $17.1 million for the Texas Education Agency to help school districts purchase silent panic alert systems; and
  • $5 million for the Texas Department of Public Safety to increase the research capacity of the Texas Fusion Center, which provides intelligence support for law enforcement across the state.

The funding initiative will support school safety and mental health through Aug. 31, 2023. According to the release, the state legislature will prioritize these issues during the 88th legislative session, which begins in January.

The plan, which Gov. Greg Abbott approved, was proposed by House Speaker Dade Phelan, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Senate Finance Committee Chair Joan Huffman and House Appropriations Chair Greg Bonnen.

"Funding these much-needed initiatives marks the first of many steps that we will take at the Legislature to respond to the horrific events in Uvalde and prevent another tragedy like this from happening again," Phelan said in the release. "Important policy discussions and debates remain on how the Legislature will tackle issues, such as school safety, mental health, firearm safety and more, but this important first step will ensure that action is taken and implemented before school starts again in August."

On June 1, Abbott called for the formation of two special legislative committees to investigate school safety and mass violence following the tragedy in Uvalde. DPS Director Steven McCraw spoke before the special Senate committee on June 21 and testified that roughly three minutes after the gunman entered Robb Elementary School, there were enough law enforcement officers on the scene to enter the classroom. McCraw called the delayed law enforcement response an "abject failure."

The May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary, which left 19 students and two teachers dead, is under investigation by multiple agencies.

This article comes from our ABC13 partners at Community Impact Newspapers.