Mental Health Policy Academy and Fellows
When an organization’s capacity for working on mental health policy issues increases, the needs and voices of Texans living with mental illness have a greater impact on policymaking. Unfortunately, many organizations lack the resources or expertise to tackle mental health policy issues head on.
Launched in 2010, the Hogg Foundation Policy Academy and Fellows program is increasing capacity and expertise to advance mental health policy in Texas. Through the program, nonprofit advocacy organizations receive a grant to hire and train a mental health policy fellow for up to two years. The policy fellows must be recent graduates of law, social work, public policy or other related graduate programs. The foundation also funds a Mental Health Policy Academy for the fellows and their mentors.
Effective public policy is essential to realizing meaningful systemic change in mental health services and improvement in the lives of Texans experiencing mental health conditions. Public policy directly impacts the public’s access to mental health services and supports, quality of care, and legal rights and protections. Positive mental health public policy initiatives can increase opportunities for recovery by promoting best practices in treatment and support services.
Nonprofit organizations can greatly affect public policy, yet many nonprofits report their ability to engage in mental health policy-related activities is constrained by budgetary limitations.
The most recent round of fellowships was awarded to ten nonprofit advocacy groups in Texas:
- Center for Public Policy Priorities (Austin, Texas)
- Communities for Recovery (Austin, Texas)
- Disability Rights Texas (Austin, Texas)
- Grassroots Leadership (Austin, Texas)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Texas (Austin, Texas)
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Texas (Austin, Texas)
- One Voice Texas (Austin, Texas)
- Texans Care for Children (Austin, Texas)
- Texas Pediatric Society (Austin, Texas)
- Texans Standing Tall (Austin, Texas)
Each group received funds to hire an in-house, full-time fellow. The fellows, who are recent graduates of law, social work, public policy or other graduate programs, are provided with an experienced mentor. Both the fellows and the mentors participate in the Hogg Mental Health Policy Academy. The academy provides training and support for the fellows, their mentors and others involved in advocacy work in Texas.
The Hogg Mental Health Policy Academy is a learning community facilitated by Texans Care for Children with support from the Hogg Foundation. Participants in the academy—including a network of mental health policy fellows across the state, their mentors and a cohort of family and consumer participants—receive training each month, along with other professional development to enhance their effectiveness as advocates. They network with legislative staffers, policy experts, and direct service providers, while learning first-hand about:
identifying policy challenges, assessing options for addressing them, and developing policy solutions;
the landscape of Texas and national mental health policy;
strategies for working with and educating decision-makers in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government; and
best practices in mental health and effective means for implementing these practices in Texas.
Hogg Program Officer
Colleen Horton joined the Hogg Foundation in 2010 as program officer. She leads the foundation’s mental health policy unit and manages policy-related grants and activities. She also provides information and technical assistance upon request to legislators, legislative staffers, state agency staffers, as well as consumers and families on mental health topics. Prior to her work with the foundation, Horton was public policy director and a children’s policy specialist at the Texas Center for Disability Studies, where she gained extensive knowledge and experience in legislative and administrative rule-making processes. Before that she was an advocacy coordinator for Texas Advocates Supporting Kids with Disabilities. For more on Horton, see her bio.