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Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas Welcome to the Official Website for the Texas Senate
Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas
Welcome to the official website for the
Texas Senate
 
Senator Jane Nelson: District 12
Senator Jane Nelson
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
OP-ED SUBMISSION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2016
Contact: Melissa Duncan
512-463-0112
Texas Honors Veterans Through Innovative Grant Partnership

As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I recall my father recounting stories of his brothers in arms who came home “different.” He was referring to the unseen, psychological wounds of war that so many of our fighting men and women bring home from the battlefield – an affliction misunderstood during my father's time but something we are working on many fronts to address today as we recognize June as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) awareness month.

Just last month, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced that the United Way of Denton County received a $175,199 grant to help connect local veterans and their families to the behavioral health services they need. The program will not only focus on those in crisis, it will help participants access ongoing treatment in the community. In addition, it will provide case management to make sure participants can receive support services and peer counseling throughout their recovery.

The grant is part of a $1 million pilot program for the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, a program created under my Senate Bill 55 last session. After a competitive statewide request for proposal process, the United Way of Denton County emerged as one of four awardees. Other winners include Dallas' Center for BrainHealth, which is conducting groundbreaking training known as Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training -- a regimen designed to improve cognitive performance; Emergency Health Network and Texas Panhandle Centers ---which will pave the way for therapy dogs, equine therapy, and other services geared towards veterans.

These worthy projects will make a positive difference in the lives of those struggling with PTSD and other mental health challenges, and I am pleased to report that more help is on the way. As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I worked to include $20 million in the current budget to support this alliance. In addition, Senate Bill 55 requires that our state investment be matched by local or private funds, meaning this initiative will leverage $40 million. Moreover, the grants will be tailored to the unique needs of each community.

This is a truly unique partnership between the state, nonprofits, the private sector and local communities. It builds on Texas' other investments in mental health services for our military families. In 2009 -- based on a suggestion from one of my constituents -- I authored legislation establishing a peer counseling program for veterans. We heard compelling testimony from those who suggested that it is easier for veterans to open up to their peers, and that testimony was absolutely correct. This program now trains 600 veteran volunteers every year and produces 53,000 interactions with veterans struggling with mental health challenges.

Access to mental health services is an important issue for all Texans, but we owe a special debt to our veterans, particularly those who have risked their lives in combat. While there is much more work to be done, I am confident these new funds will go a long way toward helping our fighting men and women -- and their families -- overcome the trauma of war.

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