Austin mind meld aims to improve mental health in Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A soldier unleashes a spray of bullets on his own post.  A woman flings herself off an overpass onto Interstate 35 below.  Attorneys argue a death row inmate is mentally ill and should not die for his crime.

All three recent headlines underscore the mental health debate swelling in Texas, and the motivation behind a new push to craft better mental health policy.

The Meadows Foundation launches a new Mental Health Policy Institute for Texas in Austin on Wednesday, with an initiative called “Texas State of Mind.” Leaders hope to identify and encourage better mental health policies and practices in our state, and remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

“We believe very strongly that we want to deal with the stigma and erase the stigma,” said Meadows Foundation President and CEO Tom Luce.

” We were finally able to have a conversation about AIDS and we began to find out how to deal with it.  We finally had conversations about breast cancer and research followed.  So we want to do the same thing. Mental illness is an illness. We need people to feel free to raise their hand and say ‘I need some help – I need some help for a loved one; I need some help for a friend.’ And then we need to make sure they get the help they need when they need it, not after an emergency occurs.”

The initiative focuses on three main areas: children, veterans and criminal justice policies.  It’s funded by a $10 million commitment from the Meadows Foundation.  As part of the feasibility study in 2012, an online survey was conducted to determine the level of need and interest for an institute of this type in Texas. The results compiled from 1,513 respondents may be found here.

Key leaders participating in the Austin conference include Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus, State Senator Jane Nelson, and Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek.

Read the entire Texas State of Mind initiative here:
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