Mental Health Resources and Protections
Find information on key laws and resources for Texans living with a mental health diagnosis. This page provides information on both resources and contacts that can help when looking for mental health services in the state. Additionally, this page includes a summary of laws by topic that may impact individuals living with mental illness. This section is not intended to be used for legal advice.
On This Page:
- State and Federal Law
Contacts for Urgent Services
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources, and best practices for professionals.
(800) 273-8255 or (800) 273-TALK
- For mental health or substance use emergencies where safety is at immediate risk, dial 9-1-1.
- Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves at (800) 273-8255, option 1
- 24/7 Crisis Text Line: Text TX to 741741
- To find services go to Texas 2-1-1 or dial 2-1-1, option 8
- 24/7 Local Mental Health Authority Crisis Hotline for substance use and other crisis services
- For LGBTQ suicide prevention go to The Trevor Project at (866) 488-7386 or text START to 6786780 or chat online
Contacts for Non-Urgent Services
The first step when seeking help for non-emergency mental health or substance use challenges is to find local services. Call the local referral line for confidential help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
File a Complaint
To file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ):
- (800) 514-0301 (voice)
- (800) 514-0383 (TTY)
- For more information about civil rights protections go to DOJ Civil Rights or call (202) 514-6255.
- Disability Rights Texas (Protection & Advocacy Agency):
- Statewide Intake: 800-252-9108
- Sign Language Video Phone: 1-866-362-2851
- Purple 2 Video Phone: 512-271-9391
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Texas is an advocacy, support, and education organization that can be reached at (512) 693-2000
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): hosts a free, 24/7, 365-day-a-year disaster distress helpline, call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. Deaf and hard of hearing callers can contact the same number through their videophone to access 24/7 ASL support.
- To find mental health services provided by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) select either of the links below:
State and Federal Law
A person living with mental illness has the rights, benefits, responsibilities, and privileges guaranteed by the constitution. A patient of an institution has:
- the right to register and vote at an election;
- the right to acquire, use, and dispose of property, including contractual rights;
- the right to sue and be sued;
- all rights relating to the grant, use, and revocation of a license, permit, privilege, or benefit under law;
- the right to religious freedom; and
- all rights relating to domestic relations.
Providing court-ordered, emergency, or voluntary mental health services to a person is not a determination or adjudication of mental incompetency and does not limit the person's rights as a citizen, or the person's property rights or legal capacity. A person is presumed mentally competent unless a court has determined otherwise.
An individual who is a patient in an inpatient mental health facility has the right to:
- receive visitors;
- communicate with a person outside the facility by telephone or mail; and
- communicate by telephone or mail with legal counsel, the state agency, the courts, and the state attorney general.
A patient must be informed in writing, at the time of admission and discharge at an inpatient facility, of the existence, purpose, telephone number, and address of the protection and advocacy system in Texas under the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act of 1986.
A patient receiving mental health services has the right to:
- appropriate treatment in the least restrictive appropriate setting available;
- not receive unnecessary or excessive medication;
- refuse to participate in a research program;
- an individualized treatment plan and to participate in developing the plan; and
- a humane treatment environment that provides reasonable protection from harm and appropriate privacy for personal needs.
A person may not administer a psychoactive medication to a patient receiving voluntary or involuntary mental health services who refuses unless:
- the patient is having a medication-related emergency;
- the patient is younger than 16 years of age, or the patient is younger than 18 years of age and is a patient admitted for voluntary mental health services, and the parent, managing conservator, or guardian consents to the administration on behalf of the patient; or
- the refusing patient's representative authorized by law to consent on their behalf has consented to the administration.
A patient receiving inpatient mental health services is entitled to obtain at the patient's cost an independent psychiatric, psychological, or medical examination or evaluation by a psychiatrist, physician, or no physician mental health professional chosen by the patient. The facility administrator allows the patient to obtain the examination or evaluation at any time.
If the patient is a minor, the minor and the minor's parent, legal guardian, or conservator is entitled to obtain the examination or evaluation. The cost of the examination or evaluation will be billed by the professional who performed the examination or evaluation to the person responsible for payment of the minor's treatment.
Least Restrictive Appropriate Setting for Treatment
The least restrictive appropriate setting for the treatment of a patient is the treatment setting that:
- is available;
- provides the patient with the greatest probability of improvement or cure; and
- is no more restrictive of the patient's physical or social liberties than is necessary to provide the most effective treatment and to protect adequately against any danger the patient poses to themselves or others.
Continuing Care Plan
The physician responsible for a patient's treatment will prepare a continuing care plan for a patient scheduled to be furloughed or discharged unless the patient does not require continuing care.
The plan must address the patient's mental health and physical needs, including:
- the need for outpatient mental health services following furlough or discharge; and
- the need for sufficient psychoactive medication on furlough or discharge to last until the patient can see a physician.
The physician shall deliver the plan and other appropriate information to the community center or other provider that will deliver the services if:
- the services are provided by:
- a community center or other provider that serves the county in which the patient will reside and that has been designated to perform continuing care services; or
- any other provider that agrees to accept the referral; and
- the provision of care by the center or provider is appropriate.
A patient who is to be discharged may refuse the continuing care services.
The guardian of an adult may expend funds of the guardianship as provided by court order to care for and maintain an individual who has been determined to be incapacitated. The guardian may apply for residential care and services on behalf of a person who has decision-making ability if the person agrees. The guardian must report the condition of the person to the court at regular intervals, at least annually, unless the court orders more frequent reports. If the person is receiving residential care in a public or private care facility, the guardian must include in any report to the court a statement as to the necessity for continued care in the facility.
A guardian may not voluntarily admit an incapacitated person to a public or private in-patient psychiatric or residential facility for care and treatment. If care and treatment in a psychiatric or a residential facility are necessary, the person or the person's guardian may apply to a court to commit the person or transport the ward to an inpatient mental health facility for a preliminary examination.
A guardian of a person younger than 16 years of age may voluntarily admit an incapacitated person to a public or private inpatient psychiatric facility for care and treatment. A guardian of a person may voluntarily admit an incapacitated person to a residential care facility for emergency care or respite care.
Read more about State and Federal Laws for Guardianship.
A local mental health authority (LMHA) must ensure the provision of assessment services, crisis services, and intensive and comprehensive services using disease management practices for adults with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or clinically severe depression and for children with serious emotional illnesses. The LMHA must ensure that individuals are engaged with treatment services that are:
- ongoing and matched to the needs of the individual in type, duration, and intensity;
- focused on a process of recovery designed to allow the individual to progress through levels of service;
- guided by evidence-based protocols and a strength-based paradigm of service; and
- monitored by a system that holds the local authority accountable for specific outcomes, while allowing flexibility to maximize local resources.
An LMHA ensures the provision of assessment services, crisis services, and intensive and comprehensive services using disease management practices for children with serious emotional, behavioral, or mental disturbance and adults with severe mental illness who are experiencing significant functional impairment due to a mental health disorder that is defined by the DSM-5, including:
- major depressive disorder, including single episode or recurrent major depressive disorder;
- post-traumatic stress disorder;
- schizoaffective disorder, including bipolar and depressive types;
- obsessive-compulsive disorder;
- anxiety disorder;
- attention deficit disorder;
- delusional disorder;
- bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, or other eating disorders not otherwise specified; or
- any other diagnosed mental health disorder.
Each LMHA is required to incorporate jail diversion strategies into the disease management practices for managing adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to reduce the involvement of those client populations with the criminal justice system.
Court-ordered Mental Health Services
An attorney representing a proposed patient during a hearing for court-ordered mental health services must interview the proposed patient within a reasonable time before the date of the hearing.
The attorney must thoroughly discuss with the proposed patient the law and facts of the case, their options, and the grounds on which the court-ordered mental health services are being sought. A court-appointed attorney must also inform the proposed patient that they may obtain personal legal counsel at their own expense instead of accepting the court-appointed counsel.
Before a hearing, the attorney must:
- review the application filed for court-ordered mental health services, the certificates of medical examination for mental illness, and the relevant medical records;
- interview supporting witnesses and other witnesses who will testify at the hearing; and
- explore the least restrictive treatment alternatives to court-ordered inpatient mental health services.
The attorney must discuss with the proposed patient:
- the procedures for appeal, release, and discharge if the court orders participation in mental health services; and
- other rights the proposed patient may have during the period of the court's order.
Minors (under age 18) may not refuse psychoactive medication authorized by a parent or guardian, or discharge themselves from a voluntary mental health facility if guardian or parent objects.
Restraints and Seclusion
A person may not administer to a resident of an inpatient facility a restraint that:
- obstructs the resident's airway, including a procedure that places anything in, on, or over the resident's mouth or nose;
- impairs the resident's breathing by putting pressure on the torso; or
- interferes with the resident's ability to communicate.
The executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will ensure that each resident at a facility and the resident's legally authorized representative are notified of the rules and policies related to restraints and seclusion.
A facility may not discharge or otherwise retaliate against:
- an employee, client, resident, or other person because they files a complaint, present a grievance, or otherwise provide in good faith information relating to the misuse of restraint or seclusion at the facility; or
- a client or resident of the facility because someone on their behalf files a complaint, presents a grievance, or otherwise provides in good faith information relating to the misuse of restraint or seclusion at the facility.
Detaining a Mental Health Patient
A peace officer, without a warrant, may take a person into custody, regardless of the age of the person, if the officer:
- has reason to believe and does believe that:
- the person is a person with mental illness; and
- because of that mental illness there is a substantial risk of serious harm to the person or to others unless they are immediately restrained; and
- believes that there is not sufficient time to obtain a warrant before taking the person into custody.
A peace officer who takes a person into custody must immediately:
- transport the person to:
- the nearest appropriate inpatient mental health facility; or
- a mental health facility deemed suitable by the LMHA, if an appropriate inpatient mental health facility is not available; or
- transfer the person to emergency medical services personnel of an emergency medical services provider.
A jail or similar detention facility may not be deemed suitable except in an extreme emergency.
A physician shall examine the person as soon as possible within 12 hours after the time the person is brought into a facility by the peace officer or transported for emergency detention by the person's guardian.
A person may be admitted to a facility for emergency detention only if the physician who conducted the preliminary examination of the person makes a written statement that:
- is acceptable to the facility;
- states that after a preliminary examination it is the physician's opinion that:
- the person is a person with mental illness;
- the person evidences a substantial risk of serious harm to themselves or to others;
- the described risk of harm is imminent unless the person is immediately restrained; and
- emergency detention is the least restrictive means by which the necessary restraint may be accomplished; and
- a description of the nature of the person's mental illness
- a specific description of the risk of harm the person evidences that may be demonstrated either by the person's behavior or by evidence of severe emotional distress and deterioration in the person's mental condition to the extent that the person cannot remain at liberty; and
- the specific detailed information from which the physician formed the opinion.
A person transported by a peace officer for emergency detention, or detained will be released on completion of the preliminary examination unless the person is admitted to a facility.
This same individual has the right to:
- a reasonable opportunity to communicate with and retain an attorney;
- a reasonable opportunity to communicate with a relative or other responsible person who has a proper interest in the person's welfare;
- be advised of the location of detention, the reasons for the detention, and the fact that the detention could result in a longer period of involuntary commitment;
- be transported to a location if the person is not admitted for emergency detention, unless the person is arrested or objects;
- be released from a facility; and
- be advised that communications with a mental health professional may be used in proceedings for further detention.