Behavioral Health Politics in Texas: Lessons from Austin and the 86th Legislature
How can behavioral health stakeholders engage effectively with Texas' government? To answer this question, my thesis examines three theories of effective advocacy: 1. Effective advocacy attempts to sway public attitudes. 2. Effecive advocacy attempts to change who holds office. 3. Effective advocacy introduces policymakers to new ideas. As the thesis brings nuance to each argument, it also provides readers with a basic understanding of the Texas Legislature, Texas politics, and key actors in state government. Analysis is integrated with narrative vignettes and distilled into seven chapters, each covering one topic in behavioral health policy. These topics include behavioral health lobbying, mental health insurance policy, the Early Childhood Intervention program, the mental health in schools movement, substance use prevention, and the politics of homelessness and comorbid mental illness. Each chapter introduces readers to subfields in public mental health and the political processes relevant to them. Personal experience, secondary research, and a small set of interviews with policy professionals inform the thesis. Ultimately, I hope to empower stakeholders to press the levers of public power and improve Texas' behavioral health care system.