I have seen the future of our mental health workforce, and it’s inspiring! On Saturday, October 8, Hogg Foundation Executive Director Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., Mental Health Fellow Meagan Longley and I met with the fall 2011 Hogg Foundation bilingual scholarship recipients at the 2011 National Association of Social Workers (NASW)-Texas Annual Conference in Dallas.

The scholarship recipients represented universities and communities from all over Texas: from El Paso to Houston, from Arlington to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and many cities and towns in between. These students, many of them the first in their family to attend an institution of higher education, are preparing for a profession in the health care industry. I have no doubt that these soon-to-be professionals are truly committed to making a difference in the lives of Spanish-speaking people needing mental health services in Texas.

To date, the foundation has awarded over 100 scholarships at 12 Texas institutions of higher education accredited or in candidacy for accreditation by the National Council on Social Work Education.

It was exciting to see the scholarship recipients talking with one another about how the role of language and understanding the context of culture make for stronger engagement in the therapeutic relationship, resulting in better outcomes. In plain terms, that means people get better.

I spent time reflecting on the words and key messages that I wanted to impart during my opening and closing remarks to the scholarship recipients. I wanted these words and messages to be inspirational to them. But in the end, I was the one who came away from the meeting being inspired by their passion, enthusiasm and commitment to making Texas and the world a better place.

Despite these challenging times, I remain hopeful that the foundation’s contribution to building a greater capacity in the mental health workforce in Texas will make a real difference in the lives of persons seeking mental health services in Texas and will serve as a model approach for other states to emulate.