Contacting a Legislator

The following template can be used to contact your state legislators to advocate for improving 988 implementation and producing a comprehensive crisis response system in Texas. The Find Your Representative tool can help you identify your representative in the Texas House of Representatives based on street address. Additionally, a list of Texas Senate members organized by the district they serve is available here. To find which district you are located in, this is a helpful map.

Date

The Honorable (Name of Legislator)

Office Address

Texas House of Representatives/Texas Senate

Subject Line if Sending as an Email: Act Now to Improve Mental Health Crisis Response in Texas

Dear Representative/Senator (Name),

My name is (first name, last name), and as a resident of your district (optional: and a mental health provider/parent/counselor/teacher/etc.), I urge you to improve the implementation of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act in order to produce an equitable and comprehensive crisis response system in the state of Texas. 

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act designated 988 as a nationwide phone number to assist individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. The goals of the act were to increase accessibility to mental health resources, connect people with mental health needs to lifesaving resources, and strengthen states’ overall crisis systems by providing 988 as an easy and efficient entry point for individuals to enter the crisis care continuum.

Texas in its current state of implementation will fail to make any of these goals come to fruition. With an abysmally low National Suicide Prevention Line call center in-state answer rate of 45% and only a single piece of legislature (SB1 Article II Section 58) requesting Texas Health and Human Services to study the adequacy of clearly inadequate and underfunded NSPL call centers and infrastructure, we are severely unprepared for 988 rollout on July 16th, 2022. Once 988 does become available nationwide, call rates will only increase, and wait times at Texas call centers —which already fail to answer over half of Texan calls— will only worsen. Every minute in crisis response matters, and if we leave our crisis system at this level of inadequacy, we put Texan lives in danger.

  • Every two hours, one person dies by suicide in Texas on average

  • From 2000 to 2020, suicide rates have risen from 10.2 deaths per 100,000 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000.  

  • 15,000 hospitalizations for suicide attempts occur annually

  • From 2018-2019, 375,000 Texans with serious mental illness; 504,000 with moderate mental illness; and 1,268,000 with mild mental illness failed to receive treatment

  • As a Mental Health Care Health Professional Shortage area, Texas only meets 32.9% of its mental health care professional needs.

 

(Optional: Add a personal story here. Personal stories make these letters unique and draw attention to legislators)

In order to improve the current state of crisis response in Texas and address our mental health burden, I urge you to establish a sustainable funding source for 988 implementation; produce an organized crisis response system where call centers, mobile crisis teams, local mental health authorities (LMHAs) and local behavioral health authorities (LBHAs), and emergency services can coordinate to provide individuals comprehensive services that stabilize an individual’s crisis and prevent future crises; and provide trainings to ensure NSPL crisis counselors are linguistically and culturally competent in order to equitably serve Texas’s diverse population. 

  • Sustainable funding: One way that fellow states have successfully produced sustainable funding for 988 implementation is the utilization of a fee. I urge you to consider modeling Virgina’s SB1302, which implemented a 12-cent fee on wireless accounts and an 8-cent fee on prepaid accounts to create the Crisis Contact Centers Fund which funds the full continuum of crisis care, including contact centers, community care, mobile teams, and stabilization centers.

  • Coordinated crisis response: A call to a crisis center can be an amazing way to receive the support you need in a moment of crisis, but it is not enough. Mobile crisis teams are necessary for those who require additional help and transport to further treatment. Further, for those who are at-risk of harming themselves or others, emergency services such as crisis stabilization or hospitalization are needed. And finally, to ensure people who are in a crisis get the care they need to prevent further crises, follow-up services are critical. All of these aspects are currently disconnected and disorganized in Texas, decreasing the ability for Texans in need to efficiently get mental health services. I urge you to fund the coordination of crisis response, modeling Washington state’s work in HB1477 to convert call centers into hubs that behave as entry points to care pathways.

  • Linguistic and cultural competency: Texas holds a diversity of populations, some of which have been historically underserved in mental health care. Black, indigenous, and people of color populations are among the underserved and are more susceptible to mental health problems due to experiencing prejudice and discrimination yet are likely to obtain services. Further, populations with limited English proficiency are less likely to identify a need for mental health services and endure untreated disorders for longer periods of time. In order to better reach out to these populations and ensure they are appropriately served by Texas‘s crisis response system, it is critical to ensure our counselors are linguistically and culturally competent. I urge Texas to look up to Virginia’s SB1302 bill which mandates crisis centers to be culturally and linguistically competent.

 

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

First and last name

Title, if any

Organization, if any

What Happens When You Send Letters/Emails to a Legislator

Step 1: A correspondent of the legislator’s office will read the message and they’ll verify you are that legislator’s constituent. 

Step 2: Legislative assistants receive important or compelling messages.

Step 3: Unique or moving messages are sent to your legislator. To make a unique or moving message, try including a personal story within our template about why Texan crisis response matters to you. 

Step 4: Before any votes are made, staff compile summaries of emails and letters about the issue to the legislator for the legislator to look over during an issue briefing.