The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is joining a national movement to increase the voice of consumers of mental health services and their family members by hiring two advisers who have experienced mental illness and recovery themselves or with family.
The new positions, called consumer and family liaisons, will work with the foundation's other staff, grant recipients and external organizations to engage consumers and family members in mental health-related projects, education campaigns and policy analysis. They also will lead the foundation's efforts to track and address consumer issues related to mental health in Texas.
"These new positions will have far-reaching effects on mental health service delivery across Texas, helping to cultivate greater consumer and family engagement in efforts to improve the design of the mental health care system," said Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. The foundation is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
"Bringing the voice of consumers and family members into our day-to-day operations will further enhance our work to promote mental health in Texas, as directed by our founder Miss Ima Hogg," said Dr. King Davis, outgoing executive director of the foundation. "The liaisons also can help connect Texas consumers and their families with nonprofit organizations, local and state agencies and others who work in the field of mental health."
To raise consumers' awareness of these unique positions, the foundation is notifying more than 90 agencies, nonprofit organizations and consumer advocacy groups in Texas and other states. The response has been overwhelmingly supportive.
"The Hogg Foundation is walking the walk by incorporating the perspectives of consumers and family members in the foundation's program decision-making. Insights of those who are intimately involved with the conditions of mental illnesses and the processes for recovery enrich the foundation's offerings," said Genevieve Hearon, a trustee for the Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center and founder and president of a volunteer organization, Capacity For Justice, Inc.
Hearon, whose daughter has survived schizophrenia for 35 years, noted that consumers' recovery process may be complete, intermittent or take a long time, which often raises related health issues.
"We're excited that the Hogg Foundation is taking this step," said Mike Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Arlington, Va. "It's very innovative and a sign of the times. It also demonstrates the foundation's commitment to promoting mental health and consumer voice in Texas."
Foundation staff worked closely with an advisory panel of national and Texas-based consumer experts to identify the appropriate roles, responsibilities and qualifications for the liaison positions. The advisory panel commented on a draft of the job description and suggested interviewing strategies to identify the most qualified candidates. The group also recommended steps the foundation staff could take to provide a supportive work environment.
"We applaud the Hogg Foundation for this bold and groundbreaking effort to engage mental health consumers in Texas. I know of no other foundation that has hired a person with direct experience with mental illness and recovery to serve as a professional adviser in this capacity," said advisory panel member Paolo del Vecchio, associate director of consumer affairs at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, D.C.
Information about the new positions and a link to the online application process are posted on the Hogg Foundation Web site. Applicants must complete the university's application process to be considered.
The Hogg Foundation was founded in 1940 by Miss Ima Hogg, daughter of former Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg, to promote improved mental health for the people of Texas. The foundation's grants and programs support mental health consumer services, research, policy analysis and public education projects in Texas.