A Texas school mental health program for students who are at high risk of hurting themselves or others had not made its way to schools in Uvalde before last week’s school shooting, the Texas Tribune reported.
Created by Texas lawmakers in 2019, the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium is already in 40% of Texas schools, but hasn’t able to expand to more schools, Dr. Steven R. Pliszka, administrator of the UT Health San Antonio consortium program told the paper.
“We kind of reached a limit to our staffing in the first round of funding and we were planning to reach out to more rural districts, and Uvalde was obviously on our list,” Pliszka told the Tribune. “Sadly, this happened before we could make that connection.”
Shooter Salvador Ramos was described as a high school dropout with a tendency to be “violent towards women” and is the kind of student the consortium is designed to identify and help.
He also had a history of cruelty toward animals.
As part of the program, students who are believed to have the potential to hurt themselves or others are flagged by school staff, doctors and parents. Those students are then referred to mental health services with mental health experts at universities across the state.
The program has reached some 6,000 students so far.
“I think the work the consortium does is part of the answer, but it isn’t necessarily the whole answer,” said Dr. David Lakey, head of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium and vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System said.
In the fallout of the shooting in Uvalde, mental health and the lack of resources it gets in Texas has been pointed out by many.
The day after the massacre, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed mental health as the reason behind the shooting.
“I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended question and got the same answer from the sheriff as well as from the mayor of Uvalde,” said Abbott. “The question was, ‘What was the problem here,’ and they were straightforward and emphatic. They said, ‘We have a problem with mental health illness in this community.’”
Abbott’s Democratic rival, Beto O’Rourke was quick to point that Texas ranks dead last in the nation for funding and access to mental health care.
“In 2019, we voted for $100 million in “school hardening,” Texas Senator Roland Gutierrez said Thursday during a press conference in Uvalde. “That is a piss poor drop in the bucket.”
It’s unknown whether Abbott will make funding for mental health care a priority as he called on lawmakers to start looking for ways to prevent another shooting. Abbott did list mental health as a priority in a letter he sent legislators, asking them to create special committees.