Recognizing that public policy greatly influences the allocation of community resources, the Hogg Foundation has always made policy engagement a strategic priority. Yet, beyond the foundation, Texas’ mental health advocacy community has long been limited in size and expertise. To address this scarcity, in 2010 the Hogg Foundation launched its Mental Health Policy Academy and Policy Fellow Initiative with the goal of bolstering the mental health and substance use policy workforce to increase access to and improve the quality of mental health services in the state.
This investment provided financial support to ten different host organizations every two years, either 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, government entities, or higher education institutions, enabling them to employ and mentor a full-time, mental health or substance use policy or peer policy fellow. Policy fellows entered the two-year program with graduate degrees in health, policy, law, social work, or other relevant fields, while peer policy fellows brought valuable insight from their own lived experience with mental health or substance use conditions. Fellows and their mentors participated in the Mental Health Policy Academy to increase their knowledge and understanding of the policy arena, worked with their host organization to gain hands-on, applied learning experience, and worked with each other to cultivate collaborative relationships and strengthen the policy advocacy community.
In 2020, after a decade of investing in building capacity for policy engagement, the Hogg Foundation set out to learn more about how the initiative was making an impact, and what lessons had been learned over time. To answer those questions, policy fellow alumni, host organization supervisors, mentors, program consultants, and foundation staff were invited to share their insights and experiences. Their responses were incredibly encouraging.
A Retrospective on a Decade of Investment: Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Policy Academy & Policy Fellow Initiative summarized lessons learned over a decade. Among its takeaways:
- Ninety percent of policy fellows agreed that they can now confidently and effectively engage in the policy process and advocate for change.
- Eighty-nine percent of alumni continued to be actively involved in mental health or substance use policy engagement.
- One hundred percent of host organizations agreed that the program increased collaboration and strengthened the network of mental health advocates.
The report also showed that policy fellows contributed to substantial achievements at their host organizations, initiating and completing projects that the organizations otherwise would not have had resources to prioritize. Young professionals have launched careers and individuals with lived experience have acquired the knowledge and access needed to successfully participate in policy engagement. Most significantly, consumers of mental health services in Texas have benefitted, gaining increased opportunities to shape the systems that impact their lives and more access to peer support services than ever before.
Indeed, the significant expansion of the pool of knowledgeable and skilled advocates, the increased organizational capacity for policy engagement, the strengthening of relationships between stakeholders in the field, and the broadening of consumer mental health services all demonstrate that the Hogg Foundation’s investment in the Mental Health Policy Academy and Policy Fellow Initiative over the last decade has been a sound one, succeeding in making a substantial, positive difference in the mental health and substance use policy landscape in Texas.
For more information and to learn more about how policy engagement helps us advance our mission to promote mental health in everyday life, read the full report, “A Retrospective on a Decade of Investment: Hogg Foundation Mental Health Academy and Policy Fellow Initiative.”