By Sahar Chmais
Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) was honored by the Texas Psychological Association (TPA) with the Outstanding Legislative Contribution Award at their Annual Convention on Nov. 13. Throughout her career, Zaffirini has been a big mental health advocate, and now she is working on creating more access to mental health services through the upcoming 87th legislative session.
“I’m delighted to receive this wonderful recognition from the Texas Psychological Association,” Zaffirini said. “Our collaboration reflects a simple truth: Every Texan deserves unencumbered access to mental health resources— especially during the pandemic.”
The senator has pre-filed three bills to further access to mental health services, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has proven to wreak havoc on many people’s mental health. She also has some bills in the development phase.
So far, she has prefiled Senate Bill 49, which would improve access to mental health records of incarcerated persons. Senate Bill 51 would require insurers to cover serious emotional disturbance of a child under existing parity laws. Senate Bill 213 would improve the efficiency of the state’s mental health courts.
Throughout the pandemic, Zaffirini has also created awareness and conversation around mental health. She hosted a Zoom webinar, “Distanced but not Isolated: Maintaining Mental Health During the Pandemic,” which featured mental health experts and reached over 8,800 viewers.
But these efforts predate the pandemic. Zaffirini championed increased funding and access to mental health care for over two decades as a former Chair of the Senate Finance Article II Subcommittee and member of Senate Health and Human Services Committee. She also passed House Bill 10, which required health insurers to offer the same standard of coverage for treatments for mental health conditions and substance use disorders as they do for physical health issues.
Her years in office have led to the passage of more than 30 bills improving access to mental health services and secured her over 10 awards for the work.
“Promoting the physical and mental health of all Texans is among my highest priorities,” Zaffirini said. “It’s my pleasure to work with TPA and others to develop effective solutions to some of the state’s most pressing issues.”