Press Conference, Listening Session Kick Off Houston Mental Health Planning Effort
September 1, 2007
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett formally announced the Children and Youth Mental Health Planning Grant awarded by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at a press conference in Houston on July 10. The Joint City/County Commission on Children (JCCCC) received $99,970 to develop a 10-year strategic plan to improve the delivery of mental health services to Harris County children and their families.
Judge Ed Emmett underlined the significance of the planning effort, stating that the most important work done in county government is related to families and children.
"We now live in a world where the importance of mental health is understood and family members are no longer pushed to the side in deciding how to improve the system," he said.
The JCCCC will work to capitalize upon this increased awareness in its planning efforts.
The strategic plan will include a report identifying best practices in effective prevention and treatment for Houston's 1.5 million children, as well as an assessment of the community's current needs and resources.
To gather the most complete information possible, the JCCCC project team will survey the general youth population and perform focus groups with Houston-area consumers of mental health services and their families. They will also conduct a series of town hall meetings and listening sessions, in which stakeholders from communities representative of the diverse Houston metropolitan area will participate and share their perspectives.
Judge Emmett's press conference was followed by a listening session designed to help JCCCC plan the surveys and focus groups. Over 80 people attended representing various stakeholder groups, including business, mental health advocates, consumers and families, educators, healthcare, government, and mental health providers.
Participants worked together in groups to assess the current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the children and youth mental health service system. They were asked to think about children's needs across the life span, community awareness and prevention of mental illness, early detection and early intervention, and the full array of mental health services. The JCCCC team will use the feedback provided by attendees to plan next steps in facilitating the focus groups and developing the survey tools.
"The JCCCC brought this group together to provide the 'big picture' context of children's mental health in Houston," said Debbie Berndt, Hogg Foundation Program Officer and liaison to the Houston grant. "Having set the stage, the JCCCC will be drilling down to the individual community level to understand the needs and resources of Houston's diverse communities. For the strategic plan to have the wide-ranging impact hoped for, it is critical that all voices are represented in this planning process."
The Hogg Foundation awarded the Children and Youth Mental Health Planning Grant with the goal of supporting improved coordination and provision of quality mental health services and supports for children and families in the Houston area.
"The Hogg Foundation's Ima Hogg Endowment is a fund that is dedicated solely for the provision of mental health services for children and families in the Houston area," said Berndt. "We hope that the JCCCC's collaborative strategic plan provides us a clear and compelling guide for how we spend the Ima Hogg monies for years to come."
The JCCCC's strategic plan is expected to be completed in early 2008, at which time they will work with stakeholders to disseminate the plan and consolidate support for its implementation.