The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is on a mission, not just to catalyze systemic reforms in mental health, but also to use our accumulated knowledge and platform to address some of the world’s most vexing problems. In this episode, former Hogg executive director Dr. King Davis, in a wide-ranging discussion, talks about his monumental effort to digitize the archive of patient records of Central State Hospital, historically known as the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane. He also comments on the present moment, and the deep implications of the policy stagnation that has marked the Age of Obama. The backdrop for the conversation is a recent lecture he gave at the UT Austin School of Social Work titled, “New Directions: Bringing Policy Change in the post-Obama Era.” In this excerpt, Dr. Davis recapitulates the high points of his talk:

What the lecture attempted to do was to explain part of the policy stagnation that the U.S. has undergone in the last eight years, most of the Obama administration period…. Why have we been having such a difficult time getting policies passed? One example of that is the Affordable Care Act, which has been, I guess an effort has been made to rescind it by the Congress over 50 times, 50 votes to rescind it as thought there’s something about this particular policy that is just abhorrent. Well, when you go back through the policy history of the Affordable Care Act, it really reflects an ongoing debate in the United States starting in 1912, to get some kind of near-universal health care law passed. But from about 1912, until the Obama administration, nothing has been successful; we’ve been virtually frozen in our ability get anything done.

As Dr. Davis makes clear, the prospect for getting ourselves “unfrozen” is gloomy for as long as meaningful reform is at the mercy of the divisive, xenophobic politics that has defined the post-9/11 period in general and the Age of Obama in particular.

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