Members of the Suicide Prevention and Brain Health Rotary eClub are continuing to be “people of action” during this Texas Legislative Session, collaborating with MOAA (Military Officers Association of America), NAMI (Nat’l Alliance on Mental Illness), AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) and MHA (Mental Health America) to “advocate” (part of our “CAUSE” or purpose) for legislation related to mental health and suicide prevention.
In preparation for this action, we scheduled two presentations in January. One presentation from club member Veronica Sites focused on conflict management/resolution and how to communicate effectively and persuasively. Ginger Simonson, Army Veteran and Executive VP, TX State Legislative Chair, TX Council of Chapters, Military Officers Association of America shared an in depth presentation and discussion regarding the legislative process in Texas and how to effectively navigate it at the Capitol and from home. Club member Athena Trentin, Exec Dir of NAMI North Texas and NAMI member Felecia Wadsworth shared NAMI priorities with our club. Links were also provided directing members to resources from AFSP and Mental Health America of Greater Dallas. Opportunities for club members to travel to Austin with these groups are available through May before the session ends.
Shirley Weddle, eClub President, joined with the Military Officers Association of America led by Ginger Simonson on March 16 to advocate in Austin. Shirley and advocacy team member Audra Staton personally visited 15 legislative offices and met with staff at each office as well as with Senator Bob Hall and Representative Morgan Meyer. Forty-one bills were highlighted related to three top priorities: (1) Improve transition support from uniform to civilian life in order to increase skilled labor in the Workforce, strengthen the economy and grow the Veteran population by making Texas the most Veteran friendly state in the nation; (2) Improve mental health services and reduce suicides among SMVF (Service Members, Veterans, and their Families) by expanding timely access and availability of services and by expanding the workforce of trained, certified, culturally competent Behavioral Health professionals; (3) Improve the quality of life and economic conditions of vulnerable Veterans and surviving spouses who reside in Texas.
A 2022 report by Mental Health America ranks Texas as 50th among states in Mental Health Workforce Availability. Of the 1.56 million Veterans who live in Texas, only 35% are registered to receive services in the Veterans Health Administration system. Therefore, almost 1 million Texas Veterans may not receive any mental health care, especially in communities that have limited access to Mental Health professionals, lack of transportation or lack of broadband access for telehealth appointments. Multiple bills have also been introduced related to reducing the processing time to obtain Texas teaching certification, law enforcement and other professional licenses if there is currently no reciprocity when transferring from another state.
Action alerts that provide opportunities to comment on line or testify in person will be shared for anyone who is interested in participating.
For more information and to be added to the advocacy email list for updates, please contact Shirley Weddle at or 972-890-7227.