Greg Abbott moved money from Health and Human Services to the National Guard. But it’s unclear whether mental health programs have been affected.
Armed man eight people died at a mall in Texas on May 6, less than a year after a different shooter 21 people were killed at an elementary school in the same state.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) has resisted tougher gun laws, and he turned his attention to mental health services after the mall shooting.
“What Texas is doing on a large scale is we’re working to address that anger and violence by looking at the root cause of it, which is to address the mental health issues behind it,” he said in an interview. Fox News on Sunday in the days after the attack in Allen, Texas.
This is reported by WFAA The shooter was discharged from the U.S. Army due to mental health issues, according to an Army official. Investigators have revealed he had tattoos associated with neo-Nazis and other far-right groups and frequently posted messages about such groups online.
Abbott’s call to focus on mental health services drew immediate backlash from critics who said Abbott had effectively cut mental health spending in Texas during his time in office.
“Abbott Cuts $211M in Texas Mental Health Funding,” read one tweet it has been viewed nearly four million times.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott cuts state mental health spending by $211 million?
- Letter Governor Abbott’s Transfer of Funds Order dated April 29, 2022
- Letter Governor Abbott’s Transfer of Funds Order, June 27, 2022
- Disaster announcement issued by Governor Abbott on May 21, 2021
- Texas State Code
- Texas General Appropriations Act87th Legislative Assembly
- Texas Senate Bill 188th Legislative Assembly
- Texas Health and Human Services
- Mark P. Jones, Ph.Dprofessor of political science at Rice University
In 2022, Abbott transferred $211 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to pay for Operation Lone Star, a border enforcement effort. But it’s unclear if any mental health services were affected, and the money was later replenished with federal funds.
WHAT WE FOUND
In 2021, Abbott released a declaration of disaster for the state of Texas, saying it was necessary because of a surge in immigration at the Mexican border.
Abbott then mobilized the state’s National Guard to secure the border, launching Operation Lone Star, which drew national attention for its bold approach, as well as criticism for its results.
The operation cost the state billions of dollars since its inception, funding has come from several different sources.
The declaration of disaster is issued by the governor special powers, with the intention of speeding up the state’s response to crisis events such as hurricanes. One such power is ability transfer funds between state agencies, without the need for approval by the full state legislature.
In 2022, Abbott used this power direct nearly half a billion dollars to Operation Lone Star. Of that, $210,730,028 came from the state Department of Health and Human Services, which administers most of Texas’ mental health and other health care programs.
About half of that money came from the department’s 2021 budget and half from the 2022 budget. U 2021 year, total agency budget amounted to about 44 billion dollars, and in 2022 yearjust under $50 billion.
It is not yet clear whether any mental health services in Texas have been affected by the transfer. Abbott order stated that the agencies would remain “wholly funded from other sources … so this transition would not affect the function of the agency or the program,” but did not specify from which sources. The governor’s office did not respond to VERIFY’s request for comment.
Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Texas, says the money was supplemented by federal funds.
“That’s how parts of the budget move all the time,” he said.
Movement allowed already allocated public funds to be used for Abbott’s immediate purposes at the border and then replaced once money from the COVID-19 recovery package becomes available.
Abbott has also used emergency powers to direct funding to mental health services.
After the attack on Rob’s elementary school in Uvalde, he ordered a transfer $11,475,000 from the general fund surplus for student mental health programs.
He has an interview of Fox News Sunday Abbott claimed that overall mental health spending has skyrocketed during his time in office.
“We know that Texas has been lagging behind in mental health for years, and that’s why we’ve added nearly $25 billion in mental health care over the last three sessions,” he said. “We’re in the final days of the session where we’re going to add even more funds, about $3 billion, to address mental health needs in the state of Texas, especially in rural Texas and especially for kids in schools.”
He did not explain where those numbers came from or provide their sources, and his office did not respond to VERIFY’s request for a more detailed breakdown.
A look at the last few states budgets – like that one is currently under consideration by the state legislature — shows that funding levels for HHS have remained largely unchanged over the past several years while Abbott has been in office. Some mental health programs saw modest increases, while others saw modest decreases.
“[Texas Republicans] didn’t expand mental health services, but they also didn’t cut them,” Jones said. “The biggest criticism of Texas Republicans will be their continued opposition to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.”
Texas is one of the only 10 states that did not expand access to Medicaid. Kaiser Family Foundation assessments that if that happens — a move that will be largely funded by federal dollars under Obamacare — more than 1.4 million Texans will gain access to insurance, including for mental health resources.
WFAA’s Matt Houston contributed to this report.
Want something PROVEN?