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Can mental health money head off school shootings in Texas?

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

When a mixture of guns and mental illness lead to mass killings, hearts break and questions resound.

What could have been done, but wasn't?  What should be done if the "will" to act can be found?

"We have not had our Columbine yet.  We have not had our 20 children killed, but it's just a matter of time," predicted Alma Allen, state representative and former teacher from Houston.

It is a fact that no state does less to combat mental illness than Texas.  Per capita the national average expenditure is $109.  In the Lone Star state, only $36 is spent.

"We are dead last and that is not a good position to be in," said State Representative Sylvester Turner.

Turner is filing legislation to infuse a quarter-billion dollars of state money into mental health intervention and community support.

"We are in a mental health care crisis in this state.  Let there be no question," said Turner.

For proof, look no further than the Harris County Jail where 25 percent of the inmates, roughly 2,000 of the inhabitants, have been diagnosed with mental illness.

"Many of the people who are in my custody that are receiving psycho tropic medications are really in my custody because they are sick, not because they are criminals," said Adrian Garcia, Harris County Sheriff.

It's estimated that more than 180,000 Houston-area residents suffer from serious mental conditions, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

With intervention services so scarce, the result has been a staggering 27,000 mental health crisis calls to Houston Police last year alone.

HPD Chief Charles McClelland says if you want to cut crime, pre-empt 9-1-1 calls with effective mental health treatment.

"I could certainly divert those resources to other more serious criminal issues.  That's a fact.  There's no doubt about it," said McClelland.

MHMRA director Steve Schenee warns that more than 200,000 Houston-area Children have neurochemical disorders and only a fraction receive adequate treatment.

Representative Turner calls it a more than compelling case for funding.

"Will it take some shooting to take place in some school in Texas to get people motivated? It shouldn't require a tragedy. We have already had enough tragedies. Does it take another?"

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