The Hackett Center News, February 2024 – MMHPI – Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
Curated Topics, Community Voices

The Hackett Center Newsletter, February 2024

Welcome to our latest edition, featuring topics, news, and people that are shaping how we are putting policy into practice throughout Greater Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.

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Message from Dr. Quianta Moore

This first issue of the 2024 Hackett Center News focuses on the significant role policy plays in driving meaningful change for behavioral health in Texas and across the nation. Collectively, we can make system-wide impact to improve behavioral health for individuals and families. In this issue, we celebrate behavioral health wins from the 88th Texas Legislature, share a national collaboration between children’s mental health thought leaders, and highlight a policy organization making strides for mental health in Massachusetts. We round off this issue with reflections on the impact of policy on my career journey.

Legislative Debrief

Wins & Opportunities for Mental Health

During the 88th regular session, the Texas Legislature provided $11.68 billion in total behavioral health funding – a 30% increase from 2021’s 87th Session. This allocation of funding continues a positive trend of increased behavioral health spending that began in 2017, when the total amount sat at $6.59 billion. Texas funds behavioral health at an impressive rate even when compared to other states, confirmed by state-by-state comparisons. Many agencies and programs across Texas will benefit from this latest wave of support for behavioral health.

In Uvalde, $38.6 million will be used to build and open a new behavioral health campus with 16 crisis beds for adults and 16 crisis beds for children. An additional $24.5 million will provide other mental health services throughout the Uvalde region.

Over $175 million will support existing and future mental health professionals across the state. This includes funding for salary increases at state hospitals and community centers and innovation grants to both encourage doctors to specialize in psychiatry and increase the number of other mental health professionals graduating from Texas higher education institutions. It also increases the availability of loan repayment funds for mental health professionals from $2.1 million to a record $28 million.

Texas youth will also see a marked improvement in support for their wellbeing. Youth Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams will receive $14 million in new funding, helping to reduce pressure on hospital emergency rooms, which have seen record numbers of children in crisis since the COVID pandemic. Over $32 million will be used to maintain and increase the number of Multisystemic Therapy (MST) teams to treat youth who have serious mental health or substance abuse concerns or are at risk for out-of-home or out-of-school placement because of their mental health needs. An additional $4.2 million will expand capacity to serve people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, which particularly affects young adults.

To increase behavioral health infrastructure, $2.26 billion dollars will fund construction projects for adult and pediatric inpatient treatment capacity, jail diversion facilities, supportive housing, crisis units, and capital improvements at existing state hospitals. An additional $333.9 million will increase bed rates and capacity in community settings. Funding for existing grant programs that support mental health also increased, including grants for justice-involved individuals, veterans, and community-based mental health treatment programs. New grants were also created to help transition people out of state hospital beds.

Finally, the 88th Legislature sent $337.1 million to the Texas Child Mental Health Consortium (TCMHC), fully funding their request. Other dollars will fully fund the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network, which will provide peer support for any law enforcement in Texas. And aligned with the Hackett Center’s maternal mental health efforts, SB 30 authorized the Perinatal Psychiatric Access Network (PeriPAN) to create a clinician hotline for providers serving pregnant women and new mothers experiencing mental health distress.

The Hackett Center applauds these efforts and the state legislators who are recognizing and responding to mental health needs in Texas. To learn more about the 88th Legislative Session, check out the Meadows Institute’s 88th Regular Session Wrap Up.

Project Highlights

6th Annual Children’s Mental Health Summit Empowers Collaboration

The Hackett Center for Mental Health, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH), convened this summer in Boston, Massachusetts to host the 6th annual Children’s Mental Health Summit.

After last year’s event in Austin, Texas, the Summit was back on the East Coast for two days of discussions with a prestigious group of 40 mental health experts from Texas and Massachusetts. The Summit spanned diverse topics, including access to school mental health, smart justice, and an insightful two-part conversation on community-centric mental health. These discussions centered around enhancing community capacity to deliver services and to listen and respond to family experiences. The event culminated with a conversation on local practices, featuring contributions from Sonja Gaines, Deputy Executive Commissioner of Behavioral Health Services at Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission and other Texas and Massachusetts state officials.

Read more about the 6th annual Children’s Mental Health Summit, including the exchange of ideas, successes, and insights from participants and speakers on strides in mental health in Texas and Massachusetts. The work of the Summit is ongoing as colleagues continue to learnfrom each other about specific programmatic and policy opportunities in their respective states.

The Hackett Center for Mental Health extends heartfelt gratitude to the Hackett Family for their steadfast support of the Summit. We also thank the Summit participants for their dedication, partnership, and ongoing commitment to driving meaningful transformation in the lives of children, youth, and families in educational and community settings.

Partner Spotlight

Partner Spotlight – The Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH)

The Hackett Center’s longtime partner, The Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH), has been working to improve the mental health of their state for over 100 years. MAMH’s mission is to advance mental health and well-being by promoting prevention, early intervention, effective treatment, and research to address social, emotional, and mental health challenges. It also aims to eliminate stigma and discrimination and ensure full social, economic, and political inclusion in all aspects of community life. By convening stakeholders across the behavioral health and public health community, MAMH addresses policy, budget, and legal issues affecting those at risk for or living with behavioral health conditions.

MAMH’s priorities include:

  • Engaging community stakeholders to increase public awareness, eliminate stigma, and promote real change in access to services and improved life outcomes.
  • Advancing prevention and early Intervention to support resilience and minimize disability that can result from mental health conditions.
  • Expanding access to effective services to increase evidence-based behavioral health services and supports through strategic education, advocacy partnerships, and workforce development.
  • Addressing social determinants of mental health and discrimination that place some people at higher risk for mental health conditions.
  • Advocating for system change to improve access and provide alternatives to incarceration, hospitalization, and guardianship.

The Massachusetts Association for Mental Health recently partnered with the Meadows Institute, Peg’s Foundation, and the Steinberg Institute to create the Policy Council, to help people across the nation get the high-quality care they need to recover and maintain their mental health and wellbeing. This partnership is uniquely positioned, with their community-perspective, to ensuring that the policies and practices will work not just in theory but in the homes, healthcare systems, schools, and communities of the nearly 100 million people in the states in which they are rooted. For more information about the Policy Council, contact Marcy Melvin at [email protected]. For more information related to MAMH’s work, please reach out to President and CEO Danna E. Mauch, PhD at [email protected].

Bright Spot: Pursuing Purpose through Policy and Practice by Dr. Quianta Moore

Looking back, I realize that even as a young child I had a sense of purpose. I knew that I had something within me that could help make people’s lives better and it was important to me that I fulfill that purpose. Like many young people, I didn’t know the exact path I needed to take. Growing up in East Texas there were not many opportunities for exposure to different career paths, but I was interested in science and the human body, thus medicine seemed the most practical route. When I entered medical school after completing my degree in Sociology, I had a basic understanding of the intersection of societal and environmental factors and health and was eager to embark upon the next educational experience to become a physician. Yet by my second year in clinicals, I realized that policy influenced so much of clinical care that if I really wanted to make a real impact, I would need to learn more about this dynamic.

I was fortunate to have institutional support to create a dual degree program between Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston Law Center. I was the first person to enter this program, so there was not a path forged that I could follow or clear career path once I finished, but I felt compelled to better understand the interplay between policy and health and believed I could make a significant impact if I had both educational experiences. Law school proved to be a transformational experience. My understanding of the rationale behind many of our policies and laws and my ability to analyze and think more expansively about solutions to many of our health problems was deepened. I had several work experiences using my legal education that strengthened my writing and research skills and came back to medical school focused on finishing my training and building a career in health policy.

As I expanded my research and involvement in policy, new opportunities arose and eventually I decided to leave my ophthalmology research fellowship to pursue health policy full time at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The Baker Institute gave me the platform to explore and implement innovative policy solutions that could have local impact and be used as a model nationally. I had opportunities to influence policymakers with original research and one of the most valuable lessons I learned was the importance of involving stakeholders in research and formulation of policy recommendations.

Through several leadership opportunities, including a fellowship as a RWJF Interdisciplinary Leader, I had the opportunity to learn how to use community-based research methods to capture data and evidence to inform policymaker decision-making. This experience was deeply rewarding and forever shaped my desire to build bridges between those with lived experiences and policies that are intended to impact them.

Now, as Executive Director of the Hackett Center, I am privileged to work with colleagues at the intersection of policy and practice. Strong policies are influenced by practice and strong practice is influenced by good policy, and Harris County has the size and diversity to pilot innovative solutions that can make a state and national impact. I have been on this path to policy for many years. It has been rough and winding at times and smooth and straight at others. I feel deeply grateful to be able to live out my purpose every day trying to make an impact. This is where I am called to be, where I find joy, and where my passion and commitment to serving others is continually renewed. When I started my journey, I had no idea what the path ahead would look like, but I am glad I pursued my purpose and ended up exactly where I am supposed to be.

Quianta Moore