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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Behind the hiring of a Texas mental health programming director – Axios

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When officials at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission were hiring a new director for mental health programming last year, they evaluated ten candidates, nine of whom worked in the field.
Driving the news: But the chief experience of the person who got the job was working in the office of Gov. Greg Abbott, where he was director of the criminal justice division, per records obtained by Axios through public records requests.
Why it matters: Texas ranked last out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.
The big picture: It's not unusual for governors' aides to fan out and become agency officers.
Yes, but: Good governance groups say the arrangements mean the best people in the field can be shut out of important policy jobs.
What they're saying: In one of his job interviews, Webb said his experience at the criminal justice division prepared him for his new job because "one of my staff sat on the behavioral health coordinating council" and the criminal justice system serves "as the default response" for behavioral health issues — as well as working on drug courts and drug initiatives.
By the numbers: Webb got the highest cumulative score among the ten people evaluated by commission staff — though one of the four interviewers didn't score him in the top five.
He was selected for the position on Oct. 1, 2021, at a salary of $125,000.
The other side: "Knowing that someone without a mental health background is in this position is concerning," one of the other candidates for the job told Axios.
Zoom out: Since Webb got the job, the in-state answer rate of the National Suicide Lifeline has increased from 37% to 46%, according to HHSC spokesperson Ty Bishop.
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