Texas ranked last in mental health care for young people in 2022. New bills look to change that.
DALLAS - Last year, Texas ranked last in access to mental health care for children, teens and young adults.
A bill that started in the Senate and moved to the House, could change that by providing grants to nonprofits that give kids counseling.
"After8toEducate is really the program that is the frontline for kids that have reached the end of the rope there's nowhere else for them to go," said the program's founder, Jorge Baldor.
Baldor says that in many ways the non-profit, located at the Fannie C. Harris Youth Center in Dallas, is the last place of help and hope for homeless kids.
After8toEducate services the 14 to 21-year-old age group.
Half of the building shelters 35 homeless Dallas ISD students.
"The drop-in center where we are here is more of a triage service and last year in 2022 we had 19,000 services here in this drop-in center," said Baldor. "It is an increase and what we are seeing is it's increasing further. The first quarter of this year has seen a 30% increase over the first quarter last year."
But there has been no increase in donations.
"We've had to adjust our times, our hours open are now until 9 p.m. and not midnight as we have been. We've had to let some staff go. Support staff and also counseling staff," Baldor said.
After8toEducate's budget is about $1,000 a day without any state funding. That could change.
Last month, senators passed two bills that would provide millions in new money for mental health care, including SB 26 which would create a $15 million innovation grant for medical facilities and non-profits that offer mental health services.
"That will provide funding for front line organizations like After8toEducate," said Baldor.
Kevin Lee got help here and last week graduated from SMU's law school. He starts work in October.
"I came here with clothes in trash bags. Didn't have anything," Lee said.
Lee says that Baldor believed in him.
"[He] helped to make sure that my dream and visions and plans all came true," Lee said.
"We know that there are dozens and hundreds and thousands of Kevin Lee's out there, but if we're not here to change their trajectory, they're not going to reach their potential. So that's why we're here," Baldor said.