FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 2020
(AUSTIN)—The Texas Psychological Association (TPA) honored Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) with the Outstanding Legislative Contribution Award at their Annual Convention held virtually Nov. 13. The award recognizes exemplary contributors to the psychological profession.
A passionate mental health advocate throughout her career, Senator Zaffirini redoubled her efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the struggles of many Texans. Her Zoom webinar titled, "Distanced but Not Isolated: Maintaining Mental Health During the Pandemic," for example, featured mental health experts and reached more than 8,800 viewers.
What's more, the senator's efforts extend to next year's legislative session. While some of her mental health bills are under development, she pre-filed three, namely, Senate Bill (SB) 49, which would improve access to mental health records of incarcerated persons; SB 51, which would require insurers to cover the serious emotional disturbance of a child under existing parity laws; and SB 213, which would improve the efficiency of the state's mental health courts.
In TPA’s announcement, President Dr. Megan Mooney praised Senator Zaffirini's commitment to working collaboratively with mental health experts. "She has reached out to TPA and psychologists to make sure that she considers information about the mental health needs of the community," she said. "She and her staff have worked tirelessly to make sure that they are providing evidence-based information to he community about mental health needs as well as information on coping for families during this unprecedented time."
"I'm delighted to receive this wonderful recognition from the Texas Psychological Association," Senator Zaffirini said. "Our collaboration reflects a simple truth: Every Texan deserves unencumbered access to mental health resources—especially during the pandemic."
The senator's involvement in mental health policy began long before the pandemic, however. As a former Chair of the Senate Finance Article II Subcommittee and a longtime member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, she has championed increased funding and access to mental health care for more than two decades. In 2017 she passed House Bill (HB) 10, landmark legislation which required health insurers to offer the same standard of coverage for treatments for mental health conditions and substance use disorders as they do for physical health issues.
Senator Zaffirini has passed more than 30 bills improving access to and quality of mental health services. She has won more than 10 awards for her work, including the Legislative Champion Award from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in 2019 and the Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt Award from Mental Health America of Texas in 2013.
"Promoting the physical and mental health of all Texans is among my highest priorities," Senator Zaffirini said. "It's my pleasure to work with TPA and others to develop effective solutions to some of the state's most pressing issues."
SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, the second-highest ranking member and highest-ranking woman and Hispanic member of the Texas Senate, received the Outstanding Legislative Contribution Award from the Texas Psychological Association.