It’s no small task to go from vision to reality in a relatively short time. The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute launched on April 16th, 2014, with support from founding philanthropic partners including a $10 million grant from the Meadows Foundation. By leveraging the relationships of our board, collaborative partners, staff and our skilled policy team, our first year has marked significant milestones. One of our key accomplishments has been establishing our presence in Austin and the communities of Texas, and becoming known as a trusted resource for policy and data analysis in the area of mental health. The groundwork is giving momentum to our goals of raising awareness of mental health, and the recognition of public policy decisions on outcomes and efficiencies in the delivery of services. The Institute is proud to celebrate these first year highlights.
Introducing Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and Our “Texas State of Mind” Initiative
Hundreds of elected officials, business, health care, non-profit and civic leaders from across Texas attended the “Texas State of Mind” Leadership Conference, held April 16, 2014 in Austin, in support of the Institute’s initiative to raise awareness of mental health issues and provide help to those who need it.
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Assessing Statewide Perceptions
To assess public opinion and frame a set of defined goals in mental health, the Policy Institute commissioned the Texas Mental Health Survey. Conducted in August 2014 among randomly selected Texas voters, the survey measured awareness and knowledge of mental health among Texans and gauged voter interest and attitudes on the level of attention and spending that should be directed toward mental health. The findings were released publically in January 2015.
Creating Regional Awareness
From August 2014 to January 2015, the Institute hosted the “Texas State of Mind” tour to facilitate community conversations in Amarillo, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Laredo, and Round Rock – communities representing a diverse mix of health systems. These events brought people together to better understand community mental health needs in light of anticipated state and federal policy changes; to provide a platform for future collaborative planning and decision-making; and to educate the media and increase public awareness of the misperceptions surrounding mental illness, which oftentimes is the greatest barrier to individuals seeking treatment.
The events are designed and led by each community. The Policy Institute’s role is to be a resource to community leaders in the development of strategic plans, best practices, and the prioritization of resources to improve outcomes and efficiencies in their communities. Many of these conversations are ongoing.
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Supporting Our Veterans
We believe it’s important for federal, state and local governments to innovate new funding and program models that improve services and drive efficiencies in the delivery of mental health services for Texas veterans and their families. In November 2014, Texas leaders announced their support of The Texas Veterans Initiative (TVI), an innovative pilot program to address the need for community-based mental health services. In this public-private partnership, local and state resources will be combined to evaluate and expand access to services in a highly accountable way.
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A Seat at the Table for Change
During the 2014–2015 review cycle, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission evaluated the five agencies making up Texas’ Health and Human services Commission. Tom Luce, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute CEO, was one of two public members on the commission, appointed by Texas Speaker of the House, Joe Strauss. Selected for his insight and leadership in public systems change, Tom’s appointment provided a voice for the mentally ill while driving the concepts of outcomes, accountability, metrics, and workforce training into the health and human services system. Throughout the Sunset review process, the Policy Institute proved to be a valued resource for data and policy analysis for Tom as well as for the commission and legislative staff.
Moving Forward: 2015 and Beyond
There are significant changes anticipated in the structure of Texas’ health and human services system around contracting practices, metrics, workforce, and the balance of state and local decision-making and funding. How those changes are implemented, as well as legislative decisions to be made when Texas’ 1115 Waiver expires in 2016, are going to be critical to the communities of Texas.
The Policy Institute will continue to bring a perspective informed by data and analysis to conversations and deliberations on mental health service and delivery. Our work to build relationships with state officials and stakeholders is ongoing. As the process of systems change unfolds, supporting communities in their collective impact work around behavioral health will become even more important and a greater focus for the Institute. With the support of our collaborative partners and donors, the Institute’s policy team will continue to be a data and policy analysis resource for legislators, agencies, and communities working to navigate systems change at the state and local level. We will continue to seek partnerships and be a resource for philanthropists and community impact organizations striving to improve mental health outcomes.
It is not enough to react to tragic episodes. Texans need to be engaged in their communities long term and with a systems reform mindset in order to create the capacity for early intervention and prevention of mental illness. That’s the only way we will truly improve outcomes. That’s the importance of having an efficient public system for behavioral health.