The Hogg Foundation: Reaching Out to Improve Mental Health for All Texans

For nearly 70 years, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health has been blazing trails across Texas to promote mental health, thanks to the extraordinary vision and philanthropy of Miss Ima Hogg and her brothers. In 2008–2009, the foundation continued its innovative work as part of the DDCE portfolio, but under the direction of a new executive director, Dr. Octavio N. Martinez Jr.

After taking the helm of the Hogg Foundation in August 2008, Martinez led the development of a strategic plan that will drive the foundation’s work over the next three years. The foundation’s priorities are interwoven into a thoughtful strategy for improving mental health for all Texans and establishing partnerships with organizations across the state.

At the core of its work, the foundation promotes mental health in Texas through grants; scholarships; policy analysis and research; and public outreach and education.

“By addressing key issues such as consumer and family involvement, integrated health care, cultural competency and workforce shortages, we’re also helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness,” Martinez said. “In the past year, the foundation already has made significant progress in many of these strategic funding areas.”

Mental Health Services for 10,000 Houston-Area Children and Youth

An estimated 10,000 children and youth in high-need areas of Houston and Harris County will receive mental health services in the next three years through a $7.8 million grant initiative funded by the Hogg Foundation.

The eight grants awarded to community programs involve 27 nonprofit and government agencies in the Houston area and are funded by an endowment established by Miss Ima Hogg before she died in 1975. The endowment may only be used for mental health services for children, youth and their families in Houston and Harris County.

Gwen Emmet, Dr. Octavio Martinez (Hogg Foundation executive director), Dr. Steven Schnee (executive director of MHMRA of Harris County) and Steven Williams (director of the Houston Health and Human Services Department) were all speakers at a September awards function.

The latest round of grants will fund mental health promotion; prevention; early identification and intervention; and treatment services in schools and community settings, such as day care centers and transitional living shelters.

The foundation awarded the grants in response to recommendations made in a strategic plan prepared by the Joint City/County Commission on Children. The commission issued the plan to improve children’s mental health after leading an 18-month community-wide planning process funded by the Hogg Foundation.

Workforce Development and Cultural Competency

In what is believed to be the first statewide program of its kind, the foundation has committed up to $1 million over three years for a scholarship program to narrow the gap between the need for Spanish-language mental health services in Texas and the availability of trained professionals to meet those needs.

The foundation awarded 51 full-tuition scholarships to bilingual graduate students of social work from the Fall 2008 through the Fall 2009 semesters.

Recipients must attend one of 11 Texas graduate schools of social work that are accredited or pending accreditation by the National Council on Social Work Education. The scholarships cover full tuition and required fees for recipients, who must be fluent in Spanish and English and agree to work in Texas after graduation, providing mental health services for a period equal to the time frame of the scholarship.

Scholarship recipient Guadalupe Arvizo was a social worker in Dallas before entering graduate school at The University of Texas at Arlington. She knows timely treatment is most effective for people in crisis, but waiting lists for services are much longer for people who speak languages other than English.

“I used to buy into the myth that Latinos don’t seek counseling services, but the reality is that the language barrier is an obstacle that must be overcome,” she said.

The foundation also is hosting a professional networking group for African American mental health professionals in the Austin area to support professional development, diversity and growth of the behavioral health workforce in Texas. About 30 people attended the group’s first meeting in April 2009.

Consumer and Family Involvement

For the first time, the foundation has hired two liaisons—Stephany Bryan and Tammy Heinz—to bring the voices of consumers of mental health services and their families to the foundation’s strategic planning, grant-making and policy activities.

The liaisons’ roles are unique among philanthropic organizations and gained national attention when the foundation posted the positions. The foundation received applications from more than 150 people across the United States, from as far away as New York and California.

“Stephany and Tammy bring unique perspectives and invaluable insights about what’s needed to improve mental health services and systems in Texas,” said Martinez. “Their knowledge and experiences with mental health consumers and family members, systems of care, policies and issues will benefit the foundation’s work and the state as a whole.”

Integrated Health Care

In 2006 the foundation launched a statewide three-year, $2.6 million grant program to implement and evaluate the collaborative care model of integrated health care, which improves people’s health by treating physical and behavioral illnesses together.

In 2008 the foundation hosted a two-day statewide conference on integrated health care that attracted hundreds of consumers, service providers, educators and policy makers. More than 50 national, state and local health care experts; providers; and consumers spoke on three key topic areas: best practices; benefits for consumers, providers, employers and insurers; and next steps to promote integrated health care in Texas.

Most recently, the foundation awarded a $259,092 grant to help accelerate and expand integrated health care in Texas by forming a statewide learning community of health care providers.

Largely as a result of the foundation’s work in this area, staff was invited to testify before House and Senate committees during the 81st session of the Texas Legislature. The Legislature passed House Bill 2196 to create the first statewide work group on integrated health care in Texas, and foundation staff will serve on the work group.

Academic Research of Mental Health

In 2009 the foundation initiated a new grant program to encourage academic research of mental health issues in Texas, with an emphasis on diversity and consumer and family involvement. Ten tenure-track assistant professors had their proposals selected, from a field of 35, and received nearly $150,000 in one-year grants.

The research projects cover a variety of topics, such as mental health care preferences of Iraqi war veterans, the impact of the economic crisis on depression among elderly Korean immigrants, and potential links between childhood obesity and mental health.

Dr. Mary Newsome, assistant professor and researcher in the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine, is studying why some at-risk youth who grow up in stressful conditions such as violence, poverty and abuse have greater resiliency than others in the same environment.

“This topic has important implications for adolescents at risk of mental health disorders and poor outcomes in educational achievement and social integration,” Newsome said. “Greater understanding of characteristics associated with resilience in at-risk youth could lead to more effective services and ultimately, more successful outcomes for these youth.”

In another project, Dr. Kimberly Booker, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Philosophy at Texas Woman’s University, and colleague Dr. Angela Mitchell are assessing psychological needs and behavioral difficulties of adolescents in disciplinary alternative education programs. The study is being done in partnership with the Dallas Independent School District.

“We hope to shed light on behavioral and mental health barriers to adolescents being successful in school,” Booker said. “Our focus on the vulnerable alternative education population has particular importance, considering these students’ increased potential for academic failure and dropping out.”

Making a Difference in the Mental Health Arena

The five strands of work reported here are just a sample of the activities on which the Hogg Foundation is now focusing. They contribute to Martinez’s long-term goals to promote mental health for all Texans, spark innovative mental health programs and services, and erase the stigma of mental illness across Texas.

Having Texas’ flagship university as home base will help the foundation achieve those goals. “To be a part of a premier research university is a unique position for a foundation focused on mental health and elevates our position in Texas and at the national level,” Martinez said.