The passing of Dr. Susan A. Stone, J.D., M.D., on Sunday, September 8, has left a gaping hole in our hearts and a tremendous void among people in Texas (and beyond) working to promote recovery and improve mental health services for all in need.
It is difficult for me to conceive of Texas without Susan. For years she brought her formidable skills and endless passion to a variety of complex and weighty projects. She collaborated with the Hogg Foundation countless times, leading to concrete and significant reforms that are hard to imagine without her deft touch. Working with her has made me a better professional and getting to know her has enriched my life as a person.
It is impossible to summarize the scope of Susan’s impact, but let me share a few highlights. Early on at my time at the foundation, Susan became involved in the Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force, which was created in response to the tragic death of Sophia King. Ultimately Susan’s leadership of the Indicator Improvement Initiative led to the creation of community-based behavioral health indicators and an analytical process that identified inefficiencies and human costs in our local service system. The project has become a national model due to her vision and hard work: http://www.integralcare.org/content/indicator-improvement-initiative
Susan had long been concerned about replacing coercive interventions with more therapeutic approaches in a variety of treatment settings. Her work on a complex evaluation of Hogg’s multifaceted project to reduce reliance on seclusion and restraint in Texas identified concrete improvements successfully implemented by a number of service providers: http://www.hogg.utexas.edu/uploads/documents/SRRIEval_FINAL1.pdf
Susan was never one to avoid a challenge. She was frustrated by cumbersome and dated procedures in the Texas Mental Health Code and coordinated a team of experts, guided by community meetings statewide, in developing recommendations for the Texas Legislature to overhaul the civil commitment process, which was last updated over 25 years ago:
Susan was generous with her time and was always eager to educate people about various aspects of mental health in Texas. Because (or perhaps despite) her vast knowledge framed by many years of graduate studies and even more years of clinical practice, she had a gift for clearly explaining complex phenomena to non-specialists. For years the state bar turned to her to educate lawyers working with our most vulnerable children, those in special education, child welfare, or the juvenile justice system: http://www.texasbarcle.com/materials/Programs/2715/Brochure.pdf
Susan was my go-to person when I needed to understand something better or wanted to figure something out. Her brilliance and kindness are a rare combination in this world. Her impact on Texas is immeasurable, in part because of her modesty about her significant accomplishments. Texas is a far better place because of her dedication and hard work. I will miss her professionally and I already miss her personally.