SAN ANTONIO — During Wednesday’s press conference, Governor Greg Abbott said “there was no known mental health history of the gunman” who took the lives of at least 21 people on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School.
Despite that, Gov. Abbott said later “anybody who shoots somebody else, has a mental health challenge.”
Mental health experts say officials must be intentional when identifying causes of mass shootings.
“To immediately jump to mental illness as being the primary or sole cause of this tragedy, can be very damaging and can stigmatize an already vulnerable population,” Greg Hansch, executive director of NAMI Texas said.
According to the American Psychology Association, a 2013 report on Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention and Policy states persons with serious mental illness commit only a small proportion of firearm-related homicides. Mental illness and mental health equate to one tenth of 1% of all fire-arm related homicides in the US, the study said.
According to the organization Mental Health America, Texas ranks dead last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia for access to mental health care.
Earlier this year, Gov. Abbott shifted $210 million in funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to border security. Although it may appear this was a reduction in funding, that was not the case.
A spokesperson for the Texas State Health and Human Services Commission told KENS 5 today their mental health programs and services are fully funded. “HHSC was appropriated $211 million in additional funding through the [CARES Act]. As required in House Bill 2, HHSC was required to lapse the general revenue that was being replaced with the additional CARES Act funding,” the statement said.
“There is no reduction to services being delivered to clients as the result of this transfer,” the statement said.
"On April 22, 2022, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation renewing the initial disaster declaration and certifying under Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code that the surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexico border posed an ongoing and imminent threat of disaster for a number of Texas counties and for all state agencies affected by this disaster. On April 22, 2022, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation renewing the initial disaster declaration and certifying under Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in the State of Texas, HHS Chief Financial Officer Trey Wood said in a letter dated April 28, 2022.
"Given these disasters, and others that may occur during the biennium, it is critical that the Disaster Fund have sufficient monies available to respond quickly and ensure the safety of Texans," he continued. "As the fiscal years 2020-21 appropriations would otherwise lapse and be unavailable to this agency, and the fiscal year 2022 appropriations have been fully funded with other sources, I can confirm the agency and its programs will not be negatively affected by this transfer."
Hansch says Texas has come a long way in investing millions of dollars in funding the mental health system, but says Texas is still lagging behind.
“We have bolstered our inpatient mental healthcare system, we’ve increased access to community-based services, we’ve put in place protections for people who are uninsured,” Hansch said.
Although an investment should be made in expanding mental health services, Hansch says we can’t expect that investment to prevent tragedies like Uvalde from happening in the future.