Highlights from Day 1 of
Engage & Excel 2022
This morning we kicked off Engage & Excel 2022 both virtually and in-person to an enthusiastic audience in Plano, TX. Below are highlights from our morning kickoff and a few of today’s Breakout Sessions—deep dives into some of today’s most pressing topics in mental health.
Opening Remarks from our President & CEO
The morning began with our first general session, featuring opening remarks from Meadows Institute President and CEO, Andy Keller, outlining the unique context we find ourselves in as we embark on two days of in-depth discussions about mental health policy and implementation. Keller acknowledged, “We know that our nation’s mental health is worse today than it was three years ago when we were last here (at Engage & Excel) in person.” The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in over one million lives lost, and rising rates of grief complicated by trauma from horrific events like the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde.
Keller highlighted both challenges and progress in detecting and treating mental illness earlier, and in focusing more attention on trauma and grief. Keller wrapped up with this key message about the good work being done in those areas: “We need to continue what we’re doing, and we need to do more, and we need to do it better.”
Mental Health Policy from the U.S. Senate to the Texas Legislature
Following Keller’s remarks, Meadows Institute’s Chief Policy Officer John Snook reflected on the current state of mental health policy at the federal level. Via video messages, U.S. Senators John Cornyn (TX) and Chris Murphy (CT) commented on their response to the tragedy in Uvalde, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and stated their commitment to addressing mental health through policy. “We’re seeing legislators across the board take mental health seriously in a way they haven’t ever before,” Snook confidently assured the audience before transitioning the conversation to focus on policy efforts here in Texas.
We wrapped up our morning session with a pre-recorded panel moderated by Andy Keller, featuring two top lawmakers in the Texas Legislature—Dade Phelan, Speaker of the Texas House, and Dr. Greg Bonnen, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as they conferred on mental health policy efforts ahead of Texas’ 88th Legislative Session. The state’s demonstrated investment in mental health during previous sessions has established momentum we all hope will continue into this next session in 2023, so we can continue the good work already underway, do more of it, and do it better.
One Call Three Questions: Revolutionizing Emergency Response
Moderator Yolanda Lewis welcomed Chief Reyes, Dr. Cullins, and Dr. Skeem to discuss Person-Centered Triage Approach, which revolutionizes the way 9-1-1 calls are handled by putting an emphasis on asking questions and gathering more information about the crisis and the people involved.
When you communicate with people as people rather than problems that you’re going to solve, it’s going to help diffuse the situation.
– Jennifer L. Skeem, PhD
Illustrating the dire need for this type of approach, Dr. Cullins shared her personal story of a 9-1-1 call that ended up in the death of her son, Nigel.
I followed the same procedures that I knew clinically and as a mother. I followed everything that I thought I could to get my son some help. And he was still dead not even 30 minutes later.
– Mya Speller Cullins, PhD
System transformation that assesses self-harm and violence risks, recognizes the value of those with lived experience at the point of call, and increases trust and confidence in emergency responders, can also improve community resilience. Skeem wrapped up the discussion emphasizing the bottom line, “We need to do things differently, we need to change the culture.”
Creating a Trauma and Grief Informed Community in Uvalde
The Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, TX left the community grappling with catastrophic trauma and grief.
Trauma comes in disguise. Traumatic stress is often very difficult to recognize in kids, as it can often resemble anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct problems, or physical illness.
– Julie Kaplow, PhD, ABBP
Our panelists discussed the close collaboration among the Uvalde Independent School District, Hill Country MHDD Centers, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and the Meadows Institute’s Trauma and Grief Center, all working to create a path to resiliency among impacted children and families in Uvalde.
The collaboration required to support the needs of this grieving community after such a traumatic event is supported by a genuine commitment to partners living in the community.
May 24 changed us all in a traumatic way. We have 4,500 students and 750 employees, and it was a challenge to find any one person who was not affected by this tragedy…but we are moving forward.
– Niki Henderson, Med, LPC
You Really Can Have It All! The Collaborative Care Upgrade to Primary Care
The Collaborative Care Model (CoCM) is the most important practical step health systems can take to address the mental health crisis currently facing Texas and the nation.
In this session, Talebi and McNutt led the audience through an all-encompassing, interactive showcase of the operational aspects involved in the Collaborative Care Model through demonstrating each of the essential roles of this model–the patient, primary care physician, psychiatric consultant, and behavioral health case manager–who all work together to coordinate care and ensure access to the best treatment available for the patient’s needs.
Though CoCM is widely distinguished as the most evidence-based, effective, and financially sustainable form of behavioral health integration, its widespread implementation has been minimal and barriers remain.
As presenter Hani Talebi explained, “the primary barrier here is implementation…but when we learn that things aren’t working or getting worse, we change aspects of the plan.” When all members of the CoCM team work together, this model effectively removes all of the barriers traditionally faced by primary care providers seeking to integrate behavioral health care.