Abbott Cut Mental Health Services Funding in Texas

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott seemingly blamed mass shootings on mental health at a press conference last week.
  • However, he cut funding for the department that oversees mental health services in Texas, experts told CNN. 
  • A mental health non-profit has ranked Texas second to last for access to mental health care. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed the Uvalde school shooting on mental health but cut close to $2o million from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees mental health services, CNN reported. 

In a press conference on Wednesday, Abbott attributed the rise in mass shootings to mental-health challenges. However, it’s not known if the 18-year-old gunman who killed 19 children and two adults had a history of mental illness. 

“There is no known mental-health history of the gunman,” Abbott said during that conference. 

However, he still seemingly blamed mass shootings on mental health.  

“What I do know, in talking to the leaders here, as well as leaders around the state, one thing that has substantially changed is the status of mental health in our communities,” he said. “We, as a state, we, as a society, need to do a better job with mental health.”

Lori Post, director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at the Northwestern University School of Medicine told NBC News that there’s “no evidence the shooter is mentally ill, just angry and hateful.”

“While it is understandable that most people cannot fathom slaughtering small children and want to attribute it to mental health, it is very rare for a mass shooter to have a diagnosed mental health condition,” she told the outlet. 

CNN’s Pamela Brown reported that despite Abbott’s assertion that the issue is tied to mental health, he’s cut more than $117 million from the state’s Health and Human Services Commission in 2021 to a little more than $93 million in 2022.

Across the two years, more than $200 million was cut from the departments funds to go towards supporting the National Guard and efforts on the border, per the outlet. 

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, but told CNN that Abbott has spent his time in office working with legislators to support mental health initiatives in the state. 

Mental Health America, a non-profit tracking mental health resources across the country, however, ranked Texas 50 out of 51 territories for mental health access in 2021. It also ranked 15 for adults and 30 for youth — indicating that it had high prevalence of mental health illnesses but limited care. 

Brown addressed Texas’s mental health rankings compared to several mass shootings in the state in recent years alongside loosening gun laws. 

Before Uvalde, there were mass shootings at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, Santa Fe High School in 2018, and the Texas First Baptist Church in 2017, among several others. 

Abbott on Wednesday said that 18 year olds have been able to buy long guns for 60 years. 

“Why is it for the majority of those 60 years, we did not have school shootings? And why is it that we do now?” Abbott said.

However, lawmakers and advocates across the country have criticized loose gun laws for mass shootings. 

Post told NBC News that Texas has the highest gun per capita rate, and Abbott’s efforts to curb mass shootings following the 2019 El Paso shooting only led to more bills that “involved arming the public to stop mass shooters.”

The gunman in last week’s shooting legally purchased his firearms, and Insider previously reported that lawmakers in the state have recently passed laws making it easier for people to acquire guns.