With the April launch of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a community-based think tank created for the purpose of developing policies for patients with mental health needs, the Texoma Health Foundation held the first mental health conference of its kind at Austin College.

With the April launch of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a community-based think tank created for the purpose of developing policies for patients with mental health needs, the Texoma Health Foundation held the first mental health conference of its kind at Austin College.


The Meadows Foundation established The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas to work with partners across the state to identify practices, explore new approaches, and find policies that work to deliver effective mental health care to Texans.


The conference, which took place Wednesday at Austin College’s Idea Center, invited different members of law enforcement, shelters, juvenile services, hospitals and local and state government officials to come together, share ideas and focus on coordinating efforts to identify the gaps in dealing with individuals who suffer from mental health illnesses.


"This will be a tremendous opportunity for this community to have a lasting collaboration so that it becomes the sort of focus and accountability and responsibility for looking at all the resources and partnerships," Dr. Christie Cline, psychiatrist of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute said. "Every community would benefit from not one a one-time collaboration, but a full-time collaboration."


The day consisted of sharing ideas from Texoma Health Foundation President Michelle Lemming, and highlights from the Texas State of Mind children’s panel, featuring guest speakers from child and family guidance centers, psychologists from the Sherman school district, and Austin College psychology professors. These authorities commented on reports from the Hogg Foundation, which indicated that less that one-third of children with severe mental disturbance received services through the mental health system. Closer to home, Grayson County Court Appointed Special Advocates reported that in 2013, their case numbers doubled from 200 to 400. They said they believe that these cases are primarily attributed to drug abuse.


"Children are our most precious resource," said Meadows Foundation Spokesman Coby Chase, "and once the signs of mental illness arise, you need to make sure you take care of that child as long as you possibly can."


Following this discussion, the veterans panel was also able to speak on the number of veterans who suffer from mental health illnesses and the different methods to assist those individuals. According to the Mental Health Policy Institute, 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day. The panel focused on the hundreds of local veterans who face post-traumatic stress after returning from combat.


The North Texas State Hospital, local hospitals, the Sheriff’s Office, the Grayson County Jail and others participated in discussion on the smart justice panel. With an estimated 20-24 percent of Texas inmates with a mental health need, officials emphasized that a coordination of services for the most appropriate care was crucial.


In addition to panel discussions, Texoma Health Foundation kicked off the creation of an area service map to provide site information for referrals and identification of gaps.


"The pilot project will be accessible to participants, provided to the 2-1-1 Call Center for the general public and may serve as a pilot project by other counties in Texas who are interested in duplication," Lemming said.


Cline and Associate Commissioner at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission Sonja Gaines discussed different gaps that were recognized in how to help people with mental illnesses and better serve the community.


"If someone went out there and tripped and broke their ankle, we would be able to get services to them," Gaines said. "And we need to think about that in the same way when it comes to mental health treatment, and we’re not there yet."


When asked what websites people use to learn more about different mental illnesses, Gaines was met with a number of varying responses, further making her point that there is not even a clear website for people to learn more about how to help others.


"We need to do a better job of developing some single point of information," Gaines said. "It’s 2014 and we don’t have that. So that’s something we need to work on and develop."


With over 100 organizations and business leaders from across Grayson and Fannin counties participating in the conference, doors were opened for collaborative efforts of all kinds in mental health treatment.


"Literally during the break we had one of our bilingual representative who’s connected to the parole officer saying that there were veterans that needed bilingual services – they were connected," Lemming said. "It was just part of the steps of linking this effort together."