Texas House Bill 13, guiding funded partners with state mental health grants

It is widely known that Texas ranks near the bottom of the list nationally when it comes to mental health spending per capita. During the 85th Texas Legislative Session, however, a momentous move was made to correct this negative trend when House Bill 13 (HB 13) — a bill Methodist Healthcare Ministries supported throughout the session — was passed into law.

As a result of HB 13, the state of Texas will funnel $27.5 million into select mental health programs — over the course of two years — through a matching grant program to support community mental health programs providing services and treatment to individuals experiencing mental illness. A couple key aspects of the bill include greater organizational collaboration and the fact that, at a minimum, 50 percent of those funds will benefit rural communities with populations under 250,000. HB 13 is significant to Methodist Healthcare Ministries given its promise to increase access to mental health, promote organizational collaboration, and potentially aid our own funded partners and the communities we serve.

Because we are a not-for-profit organization with experience as both a grantor and grantee, we understand the challenges nonprofits might face when searching for funding opportunities like HB 13. Whenever possible, we offer funded partners unique insight and guidance on how to secure grant awards from other funders in order to create diverse revenue streams and additional sustainability. (Diversified revenue streams establish credibility and create the potential to attract even more funders because funders see that multiple entities believe in the organization’s cause and efforts.) With HB 13, we didn’t want common constraints — lack of development staff, time, state grant experience, etc.— to keep partners from benefiting from these grant funds to advance mental health care. So, as soon as the bill passed into law, Methodist Healthcare Ministries sprang into action.

To start, one of our advocacy partners, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, hosted a conference call to provide information about HB 13 to our funded partners. Next, we sought to support those partners in their efforts to apply for HB 13 funding by hosting informational meetings, offering letters of support, maintaining open lines of communication and providing technical assistance to interested organizations to ensure they had the opportunity to apply for funding. Finally, we are continuing to support our funded partners in applying for grants similar to HB 13, because we know that when partners obtain funding outside of Methodist Healthcare Ministries, they open doors to more opportunities and organizational growth. By earning diverse sources of revenue and grants, a funded partner is positioned to expand services to a larger capacity in the communities they serve. This, in turn, contributes to our goal of creating more access to care.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) implemented HB 13 through two procurements: a competitive Needs and Capacity Assessment distributed to Local Mental Health Authorities (LMHAs) and Local Behavioral Health Authorities (LBHAs), and a competitive Request for Applications (RFA) to be distributed more broadly to solicit applications from both nonprofit organizations and governmental entities. The recipients of the first round of funding were announced Jan. 23. Of the 39 LMHAs in Texas, 25 were selected to receive HB 13 funding — four of which are Methodist Healthcare Ministries partners (Border Region Behavioral Health Center, The Center for Health Care Services, Gulf Bend Center, and MHMR Services for the Concho Valley). Those four, as well as all other organizations selected by the state, will soon enter the negotiation stage to solidify their contracts for their proposed projects. Proposals for the second round of funding were due Jan. 31, and awards will be announced later this year. All projects, independent of which round, will begin in 2018.

Longevity of HB 13 is unknown; it may or may not become a project that Texas elects to continue funding for years to come. However, even if Texas decides to stop HB 13 funding, a benefit that selected partners have is that they can now establish a track record for properly managing a state grant. This proves to the state that the organization is a good investment for additional state grants for which the organization may wish to apply. Additionally, just by helping funded partners apply for the first time, we were able to help them obtain procedural experience on how to navigate a sometimes complicated and lengthy RFA — crafting the best application, and helping them find necessary attachments for application submission, along with other requirements.

It was validating to see a multitude of organizations support mental health funding since it is essential to the health of Texas communities. We appreciate that funded partners were open to this new opportunity, despite its challenges, and we’re proud that all our funded partners strive for excellence, improvement and innovation. These qualities are essential for improving South Texas’ capacity to provide top of the line health care services to individuals who otherwise might not have access to health care.