A Vision for Policy Engagement
Advocates for mental health in Texas, including Hogg Foundation grantee partners, know how important it is to have a seat at the public policy table.
“We have to build those relationships with government leaders and lawmakers so we can provide adequate services and fill those mental health gaps throughout our region,” says Keith Henry, public policy director at the Family Service Center of Galveston County (FSC).
With that goal in mind, Keith and Dr. Jared Williams, executive director of FSC, recently visited the Texas Capitol to lend a voice to mental health policy discussions during the 2023 legislative session.
In this Story
- Family Services Center of Galveston County (FSC), a Hogg Foundation grantee partner, promotes the mental health and well-being of individuals and families through counseling, education, and prevention, with a focus on access to mental health care, parent education, children at risk, and victims of crime.
- As part of its strategic vision, FSC is strengthening its capacity to participate in mental health policy discussions at the state level.
- Current and future policy priorities for the FSC include expanding access to school-based mental health services and supporting community-policing interventions.
Pictured left to right, Top Row: Keith Henry, Director of Public Policy; Cynthia Smith, Director of Business Relations; Dr. Jennifer Goodman, Board Member. Bottom Row: Diana Davison, Executive Assistant; Dr. Jared Williams, Executive Director
Family Service Center of Galveston County
In 2019, FSC became a Hogg Foundation grantee partner with the Communities of Care initiative.
“Communities of Care (COC) includes ten collaboratives in Houston and the surrounding suburban and rural communities,” says Vicky Coffee, director of programs at the Hogg Foundation. “A focus on wellness and establishing wellness in communities with children and families is at the core of their work.”
As part of the The Future is Us collaborative, FSC focuses specifically on the social determinants of mental health that impact the disproportionate representation of Black children in exclusionary discipline settings in the Galveston Independent School District (ISD).
Beyond the COC collaborative, FSC also offers a broad range of services to Galveston and the surrounding communities. These include victim support services, individual and family counseling, a fatherhood program, counseling and social emotional learning programs for students in local school districts, substance use disorder counseling, a juvenile justice program, and an integrated care program for homeless, low-income, and underserved communities.
With the mission to promote the mental health and well-being of individuals and families through counseling, education, and prevention, FSC has served the community for over 100 years. It is the only non-profit counseling agency in Galveston County that provides comprehensive outpatient mental health counseling services to its residents regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, diagnosis, or economic status. In 2022, FSC provided 14,750 units of counseling, education, and prevention services to 1,700 clients, 60 percent of whom were under the age of 18.
The Family Services Center of Galveston County has been serving the community for over 100 years.
Historically, FSC had not often taken part in policy work at the state level. But since the recent addition of Jared and Keith to the organization’s leadership team, it has become a focus of the organization’s strategic vision.
As public policy director, Keith brings to FSC a depth of experience in public service and policy engagement. In addition to serving as City Commissioner of Texas City, he has also worked as a federal grants analyst for the Texas Commission on Environment Quality, a contract manager with the City of Austin’s Workforce Development Division, and a special education administrator within Texas City ISD and Houston ISD.
“Part of my role here at FSC is to advance the strategic vision of where we’re going and how we’re going to get there,” says Keith. “We want to place our services in areas of need instead of over-saturating areas, and ensure we get a share of the grant money that’s being released through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the National Institute of Mental Health. We’re capitalizing on a lot of those areas so we can grow in a smart and healthy way.”
Pictured left to right: Keith Henry, Director of Public Policy; Sharon Lewis, City of Galveston Councilmember; Dr. Jared Williams, Executive Director
Jared began his work in the mental field as chief financial officer for Gulf Coast Health Center in Port Aransas, a federally qualified health center. Since joining FSC as chief executive officer, he has reaffirmed partnerships with local, state, and federal leaders and stakeholders as central to the FSC’s strategic vision and its continued advancement of mental health services.
In 2022, FSC provided 14, 750 units of counseling, education, and prevention services to 1,700 clients, 60 percent of whom were under the age of 18.
“Since Keith joined FSC, we’ve been in policy spaces we’ve never been in before on a local, state, and national level,” says Jared. “We’ve been able to gain a lot of access due to his previous relationships as well as gain a lot of knowledge in the public policy world that we didn’t previously have as an organization, especially related to mental health and nonprofits.”
Pictured left to right: Keith Henry, Director of Public Policy; Congressman Randy Weber; Sharon Lewis, City of Galveston Councilmember; Dr. Jared Williams, Executive Director
On recent trips to Austin, Keith and Jared made strides in gaining access to shaping mental health policy in Texas. In February, they visited with Alison Mohr Boleware, director of policy at the Hogg Foundation.
“I jus really listened to their questions about getting more involved in policy work,” says Alison. “We spent a lot of time talking through ideas for policy strategies and engagement and had an in-depth conversation about what policy work could look like long-term for FSC.”
They also discussed sharing verbal and written testimony with lawmakers and chose to address the Senate Finance Committee regarding mental health appropriations. Keith supplied written testimony on behalf of FSC expressing support for Senate Bill 26 and the proposed expansion of local mental health treatment options for children and families. If passed into law, the state budget will allocate $15 million for this expansion.
Soon after, Jared and Keith took part in Galveston County Day at the Capitol in March, an annual event that brings representatives from the entire county together to meet with legislators about projects in need of state support to implement. It offered a strategic opportunity to advocate on behalf of FSC and help lawmakers learn about their specific needs as a provider of mental health services to the Galveston County community.
FSC provided written testimony in support of Senate Bill 26, which approved a $15 million allocation to expand local mental health treatment options for children and families.
FSC is also keeping an eye on local policy proposals related to school-based mental health services. They currently serve students in Galveston ISD, Dickinson ISD, Odyssey Academy, Chambers County, and Liberty County, and have plans to expand services into Texas City ISD and Friendswood ISD soon.
“There are a lot of bills that we’re looking at to see how they’ll impact our organization and help us gain a strong foothold in the school districts where our services will be needed,” says Keith.
Advocating for a community policing approach to mental health crises is also a priority at the local level.
“The city of La Marque has reached out to us for assistance,” says Jared. “They’ve developed a community policing model and want to include trained mental health practitioners as first responders to mental health crises. They’ve also asked us to train their law enforcement staff.”
Pictured left to right: Sharon Lewis, City of Galveston Councilmember; students; Dr. Jared Williams, Executive Director
Looking to the Future
Just as the Hogg Foundation has made state-level policy engagement a priority, Family Services of Galveston is committed to taking a seat at the mental health decision-making table. Moving forward, their advocacy is sure to make a positive impact on shaping public policy for mental and behavioral health services in Texas.
“Jared and Keith are both enthusiastic and passionate,” says Alison. “With them, FSC has a strong capacity for policy engagement.”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we celebrate stories of recovery, strides in mental health policy, and the many things our grantee partners are doing to transform mental health in their communities. Don’t miss out!