AUSTIN, Texas—New federal funding and the highest level of flexibility will be required to achieve the goals outlined in a new report by a presidential commission on improving the nation’s mental health system, the head of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at The University of Texas at Austin said.
The commission’s report, released last week, included several recommendations by Dr. King Davis, executive director of the Hogg Foundation, and Dr. Steven Shon, medical director of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. Davis and Shon worked as consultants to the subcommittees that examined mental health services for children and populations of color.
“I am especially intrigued but concerned by the report’s call for the states to develop comprehensive plans for transforming their mental health systems,” Davis said. “The call for developing and implementing these plans occurs at a time when Texas and other states are strapped for cash to maintain the services they have now.
“Without new federal funding, it seems unlikely that the states will be able to transform their systems to the extent envisioned in the report,” he said.
Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America, released July 22 by the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, identifies six goals for transforming the mental health system in the United States, including eliminating disparities in treatment, improving early diagnosis, erasing stigmas, changing minority involvement in the workforce and engaging in research.
The basic intent of the federal report is to support efforts at the state level to modify access to mental and physical health care by increasing the flexibility that states have in their use of federal funding.
Davis, who is also the Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy in the university’s School of Social Work, collaborated with Dr. Shon and others to write the section of the report that focused on children and families and the provision of culturally competent services.
“Having the opportunity to view the entire report, I am impressed with the findings by the commissioners that the American approach to mental health care remains fragmented, disjointed and inaccessible,” Davis said. “These are essentially the same findings as those noted in the previous presidential commission reports under Presidents Eisenhower (1961) and Carter (1978).”
Davis said that it was important that the commission found that mental health and physical health care continue their historical separation. For populations of color these barriers are more significant. To counteract these problems, the report recommends that states find creative ways to increase consumer and family participation based on values of recovery and resilience.
Davis said “the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is prepared to collaborate with the Texas Department of Mental Health as well as local community programs and advocacy groups to find ways to transform the existing mental health system.”
The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is an administrative unit of The University of Texas at Austin.
For more information contact: Jeff Patterson, 512-471-5041.