University of Texas at AustinDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

Developing Mental Health Advocates for the Future

March 9, 2012

By Carrie Dyer, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

Recognizing that public policy plays a critical role in achieving positive change, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health has created an innovative fellowship program to cultivate and empower a new generation of Texas advocates for mental health.

In 2010, the foundation awarded grants to five Texas nonprofits to hire an in-house mental health policy fellow and provide the fellow with an experienced mentor. All fellows were required to be a recent graduate of a law, social work, public policy or other related graduate program.

Hogg Fellows_2012

 From left: Theresa Terlik, Intern for NAMI Texas; Katherine Barillas, PhD, MSW, Fellow for OneVoice Texas; Katharine Ligon, MSW, Fellow for MHA of Greater Houston; Kristi Tonn, JD, Fellow for Lutheran Social Services of the South; Lauren Rose, MPA, Fellow for Texans Care for Children

In addition to awarding these five grants, the foundation established the Hogg Mental Health Policy Academy, which was created and facilitated in partnership with Texans Care for Children. Throughout the year, the academy conducted training sessions, teleconferences and meetings with experts to enable the fellows to develop the critical public policy skills needed to become effective advocates. These skills include the ability to:

  • Identify key issues that need to be addressed, analyze options, develop solutions, work with decision makers to realize change, and monitor implementation of policy changes.
  • Identify opportunities for change within the current policy environment and agenda.
  • Identify potential partners and collaborate with individuals and organizations working on the same or similar issues.
  • Develop effective policy strategies.
  • Monitor and evaluate system changes resulting from policy initiatives.

The academy kicked off in fall 2010. Through the last quarter of 2010, monthly learning luncheons provided fellows with continued content-learning opportunities, including expert speakers with various policy perspectives. In 2011, these events transitioned into bimonthly half-day sessions and webinars held in alternate months. During these in-person and online meetings, academy fellows learned about lobbying restrictions and requirements, the Texas legislative process, bills filed in the 82nd legislative session, integrated health care, the use of a racial equity framework for policy development, and the Texas budget process and best practices in budget messaging.

In January 2012, the Hogg Foundation policy fellows spent five days in Washington, D.C. learning about public policy at the national level. The fellows and their mentors met with national policy experts from top mental health organizations, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Institute of Mental Health. The trip provided the fellows with an extraordinary experience to gain insight about national policy initiatives from the perspective of key national policy professionals.

Having the unparalleled opportunity to study under seasoned public policy experts and to learn how to effectively use public policy to change the state’s complex mental health system allows these five fellows to effect change within Texas as well as in the organizations they represent.

The academy is now in its second year. On February 6, the Hogg Foundation issued a request for proposals from Texas-based non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations to host the 2012 – 2013 class of policy fellows. Look for these fellows during the next legislative session as they work to improve the landscape of mental health!

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