Mental Health Policy Fellows and Policy Academy

Public policy is an important component in changing systems that directly impact the mental health and well-being of Texans, encompassing a variety of activities including legislative and budgetary advocacy, policy analysis, strategy development, implementation planning, and research.  Numerous organizations can greatly impact public policy, yet many are constrained by budgetary limitations and staff capacity.

Launched in 2010, the Hogg Foundation began funding the Mental Health Policy Fellow and Policy Academy program to address these challenges. The foundation added a parallel peer policy fellowship opportunity in 2016 knowing the voices of those with lived experience could have a profound impact on shaping mental health and substance use public policy.

The Hogg Foundation defines “lived experience” as someone who has personal or familial experience of receiving and/or coordinating mental health and/or substance use services within various systems in Texas (for example, state hospitals, the public mental health system, child welfare, schools, juvenile justice, etc.). The peer policy fellow is willing to share their experiences to advocate within the policy and advocacy workspace.

Both fellows and the mentors actively participate in all cohort activities during the two-year period, including in the Hogg Mental Health Policy Academy.  The Academy serves as a learning community for fellows and mentors, including monthly meetings that help build a sense of camaraderie. The Academy provides professional development opportunities on topics such as the basics of the legislative process, the state’s budget, and issue-specific presentations from experts in the field.

Policy Fellows Program

Through the program, the foundation awards ten two-year grants, supporting five organizations to employ and mentor a Policy Fellow (a recent graduate of a law, social work, public policy, public health, political science, or related degree program) and five organizations to employ and mentor a Peer Policy Fellow (an individual with lived experience of mental health and/or substance use conditions).

Upon receiving grant funds, organizations employ a policy fellow to integrate within their current staff and provide them with one or two mentors, focusing both on policymaking and mental health. Fellows remain with their respective organization for up to two years. Embedded into their training are ongoing opportunities to witness and take part in various policymaking opportunities, such as the legislative session—from testifying at the capitol to forming and participating in advocacy coalitions across sectors.

Throughout the two-year fellowship, the policy fellows focus on diverse and innovative policy projects and activities that focus on the unique vision and mission of their host organization. The policy fellows explore being researchers, writers, presenters, trainers, organizers, collaborators, and leaders.

Policy Academy

The Hogg Foundation’s Mental Health Policy Academy, facilitated by Texans Care for Children, provides substantial professional development and an enriching network in the areas of mental health policy and advocacy.

Participants in the academy receive training to enhance their effectiveness as advocates. They are provided frequent networking opportunities with legislative staffers, policy experts, individuals with lived experience, family members, and direct service providers. In addition, policy fellows and their mentors attend a federal immersion program based in Washington, D.C.

Concepts discussed include:

  • Identifying policy challenges, assessing options for addressing them, and developing policy solutions
  • The landscape of Texas behavioral health policy
  • State budget and legislative process
  • State administrative policymaking and implementation 
  • Strategies for working with and educating decision-makers in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government
  • Importance of lived experience and recovery-focused voices in policymaking and advocacy 
  • Understanding the role of public policy in promoting systems change 
  • How organizations can inform and/or engage in the public policymaking process 

Policy Fellow Retrospective

Document cover: A Retrospective on a Decade of InvestmentWe take a look back at our decade of investment in the Mental Health Policy Academy and Policy Fellow Initiative.

These resources are available as a full report, executive summary, and a one-pager.

Take a look at these resources

Questions: Contact Shannon Hoffman, Policy Program Officer