UVALDE, Texas – “We as a state – we as a society – need to do a better job with mental health. Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period. We as a government need to find a way to target that mental health challenge and do something about it.”
Those are the words of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott just days after an 18-year-old high school student massacred 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
Abbott has doubled down on his stance that mass shootings are an issue of mental health and not gun access following the Uvalde massacre.
However, in April, Abbott slashed nearly $211 million from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), which oversees mental health services in Texas.
Abbott diverted the funds to add to his effort to send National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border, currently known as Operation Lone Star.
No other Texas agency received a more significant cut than the HHSC when Abbott slashed funding.
The massive cut comes as Texas ranks 4th in the U.S. for the prevalence of mental illness and ranks last out of all 50 states in access to mental health care, according to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report.
The Texas Legislature has spent billions in the last decade funding DPS’ so-called border security mission, even though few metrics exist to measure its success.
Some of those operations have occurred in and around Uvalde, which is just under 100 miles from the border.
In fact, Abbott’s office directed $3.3 million to Uvalde County in February for county law enforcement agencies to help “prosecuting border-related crimes including drug and human smuggling, and related criminal trespassing and evading arrest,” the Uvalde Leader News reported.
On Friday, Abbott discussed the option of passing new laws to make sure that schools are safer. He again attributed the issue to mental health and specifically not to gun access or violence.
“You can expect a robust discussion, and my hope is laws passed, that I will sign, addressing health care in this state. There is an array of healthcare issues that we face as a state in general but there are an array of healthcare issues that relate to those who commit gun crimes in particular. Those need to be addressed,” Abbott said. “… If there’s anybody here who thinks we have perfect health care in this country or in this world – they’re wrong. If there’s anybody who thinks we can’t do more to address mental health care – they’re wrong. We can and we’re going to.”
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