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Hearing on the Sunset Commission HHSC Report – Public Testimony Scheduled Nov. 13th

Special thanks to Bishop Decker for permission to use the cropped version of "A broader look at the brilliant sky".

We Need YOU in Austin Next Thursday, November 13!!

Who: Families of children with mental health needs, and all those that support them

When: Thursday, November 13, 2014 @ 8:30 AM

Where: 1400 Congress Ave., Austin, TX

Senate Finance Committee Room E1.036, Capitol Extension

To reach the Capitol in Austin, from I-35 exit at 12th street. Travel west 3 blocks.  As you pass Trinity, notice a pink garage on your right “CapitolPublic Parking Garage”.  After parking, walk a block west to the capitol.  Ask the guards to point you to an elevator that reaches basement level E1.  On E1, walk to the other end, to hearing room E1.036. 

A couple of weeks ago I sent an urgent request for Texas families to take action… and you responded en masse.  Thank you to all those that took the time to make sure your voices would be seen.  The next step is going to be making sure that your voices are truly HEARD!

Last week the Sunset Commission released the agenda for their upcoming hearing of testimony on the staff report recommendations of changes to the Health and Human Services Commission.  There are some important things people that plan to come to Austin and testify need to know about the hearing agenda.

  1. While the hearings are scheduled for November 12th and 13th, PUBLIC testimony will not be heard until the second day, November 13th.
  2. Arrive EARLY! – While the hearing starts at 9:00 AM, you need to be at the capitol hearing room (a long walk from available parking) by 8:30 AM to sign up to testify, by filling out the Witness Registration card.
  3. You can submit written testimony that is as long as you want, but you will only have 2-3 minutes to provide oral/spoken testimony.  (Pro Tip: Write what you want to say in bullet points, not long paragraphs – leave the long, detailed points for your written testimony.)
  4. If you can, bring 15 copies of your written testimony.  This does not need to be the same written testimony you originally submitted.  We learn as we go, so modify as much as you want.
  5. Plan to be at the capitol all day.  The Sunset Commission will hear testimony on 8 staff reports, with the HHSC staff report being 5th on that list, but the order can be changed at any time.  There is a cafeteria at the capitol, but it is also a good idea to bring snacks, water, etc.

The last page of the agenda states the following, some of which I covered above:

*Public Testimony.  If you wish to testify, please submit your Witness Registration card to Sunset staff 30 minutes before the start of the meeting.  If presenting written testimony, please provide 15 copies with your name visible in the upper right corner of each copy and turn in with your Witness Registration card.  Written testimony received in response to a staff report is considered public record, will be posted on the Sunset website and released to the public upon request.

“What should I say?”

I get this question a lot.  In my last posts here and here I went into specific details on the issues at hand.  I thought it would be helpful to hit the main points, and I encourage anyone planning to testify to say what you believe is the most important things and that you will be the most comfortable speaking about in a public forum:

[Introduce yourself.  This can be as simple as, “My name is _____, and I am a parent of a child with mental health challenges.”]

(If you work for a state agency or organization, and you want to mention this, you need to be clear that you are providing testimony on your own personal time, and not representing your agency, unless you have received permission ahead of time.  In fact, it would be best to check with your manager if you have any concerns that your testimony could be a violation of your agencies policies.)

“I oppose the recommendations in Issue 13 of the HHSC Sunset Commission staff report for the following reasons:

  • Dissolving advisory boards such as the Children’s Policy Council and the Texas System of Care Consortium will remove the voices of many family and youth in informing the legislature on what works for our youth and families.
  • Removing the statutory law that requires these advisory boards to exist, while it may seem to in some ways hinder flexibility, in fact actually ensures that families and youth can be a part of the policy development process.
  • Families and youth MUST be guaranteed a seat at the state legislative and agency policy tables, because if you don’t have the benefit of our input, based on our experiences accessing systems and seeking the services they provide, how else will you know if the rules and laws you make are really helping the children and families they serve?”


Tell your story, but ONLY if you feel comfortable with sharing personal information in a public forum.

This last suggestion is something you should definitely think about.  If you’ve never shared your personal experience with children’s mental health services in a public forum, reach out to family support leaders in your community for guidance.  I am available to help in any way I can as well.  There is also many great resource I would like to share with you:

  • Texans Care for Children is an advocacy organization here in Austin, and their Mental Health Policy Associate in Josette Saxton.  Josette is a true champion for our kids, and works hard to inform legislative policy on issues that affect our children and families.  Click on the following link to watch testimony Josette gave on a mental health policy issue earlier this year (and in the same room as the upcoming hearing): http://texanscareforchildren.org/testimony.  There are also several examples of written testimony at this link.
  • Earlier this year I attended the National Child Traumatic Stress Network – All Network Conference, and one of the many wonderful things I took away from that experience was the Strategic Sharing worksheet for parents and caregivers.  This is a wonderful tool that can help you determine how much and how little you may choose to share about what you and your family has been through trying to access mental health care.  I have uploaded the document, which you can access by clicking here: Strategic_Sharing_Worksheets_Final
  • While developed for youth to learn how to share stories of trauma that can help providers and systems understand their experience, the Strategic Sharing Guide is a wonderful tool, and it can easily be modified and adapted to be used by families.  Here’s a link: http://www.pathwaysrtc.pdx.edu/pdf/pbStrategicSharingGuide.pdf

I truly hope you find these resources as useful as I have.  I am learning as I go, and my goal is to share as much as possible, as often as possible, so that Texas has an army of youth and families armed with the tools and knowledge to affect rules and policies that impact us.

Thank you to you, my readers.  I do this for you!!

Please let me know if you would like to attend the hearing, but need additional help, like directions to the capitol building, advice on writing testimony, referrals to family leaders in your community, etc.

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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.