Texas state senator speaks on mental illness

Will Clark

Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, addressed the annual Austin meeting of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wednesday night on the future of healthcare for those with mental illnesses. 

Watson is a former Austin mayor and was elected to the Texas Senate in 2006. 

NAMI is a national advocacy group with a chapter on UT’s campus, and Watson’s speech addressed ways of rethinking how to care for those with mental illnesses and sustain mental health in Austin.

“We can make it a statement of hope for people to be able to say, ‘I have a mental illness or a brain condition, and I’m getting treatment in Austin Texas,’” Watson said. 

Watson said several recent developments make it possible to reach this goal, naming the Dell Medical School as a catalyst for improving care in Austin.

“Hope matters,” Watson said. “I believe that we can provide world-class care and meet the brain health needs of simple Texans while also facilitating the research and educational program that pushes the edge of science and care to improve brain health outcomes for all people regardless of their socio-economic status. Think about the hope that creates.”

Watson said he has been working with the state to improve local hospitals. 

“The state must do something about the Austin State Hospital,” Watson said. “Usually you can only get money out of the state when you have your hands right around its neck.”

This vision requires putting the various pieces together to make a model healthy city, Watson said.

“Our brand new medical school with the new psychiatric department is the chocolate. The imminent need and the mandate to replace Ash is the peanut butter,” Watson said. “Put ‘em together and you have a peanut butter cup. By the way, in my opinion that is essential to a model healthy community: peanut butter cups.”