SAN ANTONIO -

In January 2013, the 83rd Legislature convened in Austin on the heels of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

It was fresh on the minds of legislators, and according to Rep. Jose Menendez, there was a concern among many that the knee-jerk reaction would be to focus on gun control. 

"The consensus came about, both among my Republican colleagues as well as my Democratic colleagues, that the real issue is mental health," Menendez said.

During that session, a law was passed requiring mental health awareness and intervention training in schools.

"They're now working to implement where teachers would have more education on mental illness and the signs or be able to more readily assess whether a kid needs to be referred over to an organization like Clarity," said Rebecca Helterbrand, vice president of marketing resource development for Clarity Child Guidance Center. 

Helterbrand said while kids with a mental illness are no more prone to violence than any other segment of the population, kids with an untreated mental illness have a higher risk of societal ills.

"Kids that are not treated run the risk of multiple issues in life, including high school dropout, including increased risk of drugs and alcohol to the point of addiction, even incarceration," Helterbrand said.

Clarity is a nonprofit treatment center with inpatient, outpatient, as well as emergency services for kids as well as teens with mental or emotional disorders.

During the last session, legislators invested funding in large urban mental health treatment centers like Clarity.

They also earmarked more money for schools than in years past. "They weren't fully restored (from previous cuts), but it was enough to help them not have to have any more cutbacks to the counselors," Menendez said.

"Right now we have been dead-last in spending in this state per capita for children's mental illness. This infusion of dollars will help, but it can't be the end," Helterbrand said.

She adds it isn't just funding we need; it is also awareness, understanding and access to care.

For more information on the nonprofit Clarity Child Guidance Center, you can go to its website or contact the Clarity Child Guidance Center admissions counselor
at 210-616-0300.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, from 9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. there will be a community discussion on mental health care funding for Texas children at the Valero Headquarters, Building D, also called The Vista, and it is free and open to the public.

For a list of recent stories April Molina has done, click here.