Abbott blames Texas mall shooting on mental health, but what has been done to address it?

Abbott has pushed back on making gun laws stricter to address mass shootings.

May 8, 2023, 9:52 PM

Just one day after the most recent mass shooting in the United States -- this time at an outdoor mall in Allen, Texas -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed the incident on mental health issues as he's done with previous mass shootings in the state.

Abbott, a Republican, said addressing mental health -- not tightening gun laws -- can prevent shootings such as the one on Saturday, in which eight people were killed and seven injured before the suspect was fatally shot by police, Abbott said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

Law enforcement sources told ABC News the alleged gunman was in the U.S. Army in 2008 but was "removed due to mental health concerns." Investigators have found he also may have gravitated toward right-wing extremist ideology, including neo-Nazi sympathies, the sources told ABC News.

"What we've seen across the United States over the past year or two … is an increased number of shootings in both red states and blue states," Abbott said on Sunday. "We've seen an increased number of shootings in states with easy gun laws as well as states with very strict gun laws."

This is not the first time Abbot has blamed a growing prevalence of people with mental health issues on mass shootings. In May 2022, he also said it was behind the Uvalde elementary school shooting that left 21 people dead.

PHOTO: Jane and her comfort dog Triton help build a memorial to those killed at the Allen Premium Outlets mall after the mass shooting occurred, May 8, 2023 in Allen, Texas.
Jane and her comfort dog Triton help build a memorial to those killed at the Allen Premium Outlets mall after the mass shooting occurred, May 8, 2023 in Allen, Texas.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Here's what Texas has -- and hasn't -- done when it comes to addressing mental health in the state.

Texas ranks last in the U.S. when it comes to access to mental health care, including a lack of mental health services, a high number of those uninsured, and being unable to see a mental health professional due to costs, according to a recent report from nonprofit Mental Health America.

It's not just adults suffering, but adolescents as well. The report found 60% of youth with major depression did not receive mental health treatment.

Additionally, last year, Abbott announced nearly $500 million would be moved from state agencies to support the deployment of the National Guard to the southern border as well as to support border operations.

Of that amount, $210.7 million was from Texas Health & Human Services, which oversees public mental health programs. It's unclear if funding was cut from mental health programs:

That's not to say nothing has been done in Texas to address mental health. In June 2022, in response to the Uvalde shooting, Abbott ordered that $5.8 million be allocated to expand the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine statewide and that $4.7 million be allocated to the Health and Human Services Commission to increase multisystemic therapy, a program for juveniles with serious criminal offenses, across the state.

However, the National Mental Health Alliance of Texas is working to get Republican offices to support HB 4713, providing insurance coverage for coordinated specialty care for people under age 26 experiencing a first episode of psychosis, meaning delusions and hallucinations.

Recently an amendment was introduced by state Rep. Jeff Leach, whose district includes Allen -- where the shooting took place -- that makes it optional for insurance companies to cover this care.

PHOTO: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds a news conference in Austin, Texas, May 8, 2023.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds a news conference in Austin, Texas, May 8, 2023.
Eric Gay/AP

Greg Hansch, executive director of NMHA of Texas, expressed his disappointment at the amendment passing in a statement to ABC News.

Not voting "to ensure that insurance pays for the gold standard in treatment for young people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, they are leaving significant mental health legislation on the table that could help in preventing further tragedies," he said. "This all happened today, two days after the shooting."

Abbott's press secretary, Andrew Mahaleris, told ABC News in a statement that the governor "has always worked diligently to fully fund and expand mental health programs and services for Texans."

"Throughout his time in office, Governor Abbott has worked closely with the Texas Legislature to appropriate over $25 billion to address mental and behavioral health issues and pass a variety of bills expanding access to mental health services, including creating a matching grant program to assist local communities in addressing any un-met local mental health needs," the statement read. "Governor Abbott also made addressing statewide mental health needs an emergency item during the 86th legislative session, passing and signing a bill creating the Child Mental Health Consortium and the Child Psychiatric Access Network. Those mental health assessment and treatment programs are already available in more than 3,500 schools, and we're working to ensure these programs reach every school in Texas."

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