On Friday, October 3rd, 2014, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission staff published their report of recommendation to Sunset on the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). While many of the recommendations have merit, there is one issue of vital importance to Texas families with children with mental health challenges. If you or someone you love has a child that is struggling, please keep reading!
Last week, family leaders across the state of Texas worked together with me to develop the text below, an introduction into the problems with Issue 13 of the HHSC staff report, and how it can and will impact youth and families if elected into the Texas Sunset Advisory Commissions final proposed legislation during the upcoming 84th Legislative Session.
Below is a link to a pdf document intended to be shared with families who are struggling for mental wellness for their children in Texas. The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission NEEDS to hear from you… Here’s how:
URGENT: Tell Austin that Family and Youth Voices Matter!
Dear families and youth who are involved in the field of Child and Youth Mental Health:
We want to bring something very important to your attention, because it has the potential to not only dilute family and youth voice advocacy at the state level, but also to dilute children’s mental health advocacy. Decisions being discussed in Austin right now could directly affect you and all the families struggling with mental wellness for their children.
We realize you all lead very busy lives. We take care of not only our own families, but also the families we serve. Austin and state Legislators may seem far away for some of you, but what happens there has an impact on you and your families everyday.
Over the last few years, a tremendous amount of advocacy work has been done on your behalf to strengthen the awareness and recognition of children’s mental health, setting it apart from other disabilities for the unique challenges we face with conditions that are invisible to the rest of the world. For example:
- Advocacy in Austin has resulted in development of an advisory board for children’s mental health, setting it apart from other disabilities: the Texas System of Care Consortium.
- Recently, family leaders in children’s mental health advocacy came together as an advisory group, and the Texas Family Voice Network was formed.
- As a result, mental health challenges have moved to the forefront with a focus on the specific needs of our children.
Let’s not let this hard work go to waste!!
Every 12 years the Texas Legislature directs the Sunset Commission to review selected government agencies, to see if they are working well and determine ways they could improve.
This year, Sunset’s largest review in history included the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and all the departments under it. The Sunset staff issued a report last Friday with recommended changes. The one that will affect us the most is a recommendation under Issue 13:
Issue 13, Recommendation: “Remove the Task Force for Children With Special Needs, the Children’s Policy Council, the Council on Children and Families, and the Texas System of Care Consortium [a children’s mental health advisory board] from statute and direct the executive commissioner to recreate one advisory committee in rule to better coordinate advisory efforts on children’s issues.”
Why should we care?
Sometimes Sunset makes great recommendations, sometimes they come up with terrible ideas. Issue 13 of the HHSC staff report is one of those horrible ideas that needs fine tuning and substantial family and youth input. The Texas System of Care Consortium provides unique opportunities for state and community collaboration around children’s mental health which may not be able to continue if Issue 13 is approved.
FAMILY AND YOUTH VOICES MATTER!!
The more legislators hear from youth and families, the louder and stronger our collective voices will become. Each response from a youth and family member amplifies ALL the other responses. There are many ways to make sure your voice and the voices of the families you serve will be heard. Here’s a few ways you can help:
- Submit a form online by next Friday, October 17, 2014
- Link to the online form: Sunset Commission Public Input Form – HHSC
- See below for a sample submission.
- Email or Fax your comments by next Friday, October 17, 2014
- Email: email@example.com
- Fax: (512) 463-0705
- In addition to your written response, the Sunset Commission will hear public testimony on November 12th and 13th. The meeting dates are tentative, and location has not been announced yet. Click on the following link for further information: https://www.sunset.texas.gov/meetings
Even if you cannot attend the hearing, please submit written testimony.
If you would like to read the full report, you can download it here:
If you have any questions, need assistance in submitted your written testimony or if you would like to attend the hearing to testify in person, please feel free to contact either Candace Aylor, Patti Derr or Barbara Granger at the contact information listed below.
Candace Aylor firstname.lastname@example.org 512-999-4569
Patti Derr email@example.com 512-944-9972
Barbara Ganger firstname.lastname@example.org 361-318-3014
Submit your comments directly to the Sunset staff using the online form at the following link:
Here is an example (screen shot) of a completed form:
Below is a sample of text you may want to consider using in the fields shown above. You should reword this in a way that feels most comfortable to you and your child as concerned citizens:
Your Comments About the Staff Report, Including Recommendations Supported or Opposed
As a family member of a child with mental health challenges, I oppose Issue 13 of the Sunset Commission staff report on recommendation for HHSC. This recommendation ignores the importance of the significant needs of Texas children struggling with mental illness, thus diluting the voices of invested stakeholders championing best practices. The Texas System of Care Consortium provides a unique opportunity for state, community, youth and family collaboration around children’s mental health which may not be able to continue in a different structure. History has shown that the focus on behavioral health services for children, youth and their families can become less of a priority focus among a broad spectrum of child and youth needs. Family and youth voices for children and youth with serious mental health challenges may not be present or less apparent if representation of special populations is consolidated.
Any Alternative or New Recommendations on This Agency
Under Mental Health Coordination, the Texas System of Care Consortium should remain as an advisory board to specifically address children’s mental health policy. Under legislation, many stakeholders have been statutorily required to participate, and this has improved communication on children’s mental health issues across all child serving systems. This should not only continue, but it should be further recommended to the legislature to include and increase youth and family voice on the Texas System of Care Consortium. I would ask that the Sunset Commission elect to continue the wonderful work that has been done thus far for children’s mental health by championing the voices of families and youth, through continuing the legislatively mandated work of the Texas System of Care Consortium to be housed under Mental Health Coordination.
Please follow my blog in the places that work best for you for updated coverage of the Sunset Commission hearings and upcoming legislative session:
Disclaimer: I am just a mom. Views expressed are only my observations as a mom, and are not in any way intended to be professional clinical advice. If you or someone you love is in crisis, please contact their healthcare provider, go to the emergency room, or call 911.