A Strategic Plan for Building a Public Health Approach to Children’s Mental Health

In 2007, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health awarded a grant to the Joint City/County Commission on Children (JC4) to lead a community-wide process to create a strategic plan addressing the mental health needs of children and youth in Houston/Harris County. The JC4 has published the outcome of this comprehensive community collaborative effort in a new report. “A Strategic Plan: Building a Public Health Approach to Children’s Mental Health in Houston and Harris County” captures the desires of the community for all children and youth to thrive.

Over the course of 18 months the JC4 conducted focus groups with various segments of the population representing varying levels of need within the mental health spectrum. Participants ranged from children and youth receiving services to families who have never encountered diagnosable illness. It was important to engage all families because the mental health and well-being of all children and youth should be a community priority. Cross-cultural communities and various socioeconomic and age groups were engaged in the process. Cross-sector professionals, including nontraditional sectors, were also engaged and asked questions similar to those asked of the community based stakeholders to gauge consistent themes and needs.

A survey instrument was developed and administered to examine youth perceptions regarding mental health and diagnosed mental health issues. Lastly, participants from the focus groups and other stakeholders were invited to participate in a two-day strategic planning retreat to develop a vision for our community and prioritize mental health goals. The strategic plan provides an overview of the planning process and highlights the current status of children’s mental health in Houston and Harris County. To address the challenges and build on the strengths of the community, the plan proposes a framework and process for change with strategic goals and preliminary recommendations to achieve the shared vision for all children in Houston and Harris County.

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