I spent the day at the quarterly council meeting of our Department of State Health Services (D.S.H.S.) and am in total wonk mode right now. (W.O.N.K.) Mental illness was the big topic on the agenda and there was good news and bad news and a lot of news I don’t begin to understand.
I’ve been covering health and human services meetings for 3 years now on the job, where I don’t testify or bomb the building, and afterwards used to walk around filled with angst and asking myself if I actually heard what I thought I heard, and who can I find to bounce this stuff around with, who really cares about mental health policy? I guess we’ll find out! I know policy is like reading vanilla and I won’t make it a regular habit, but it’s worth hollering about how the world really works, seeing it play out changes puzzled people for the better, how what goes on in officious settings is connected to things you do everyday, and all you’re not allowed to do.
I plan to do a few critical posts on the SAMHSA Mental Health Transformation rollout, and keep track of it going forward. My state is one of nine total that got the five year Transformation grant, and these 9 states are supposedly laboratories where soul satisfying system reform is now going on, and will be models of best practices for the rest of the country.
The 2007 invitation only Transformation Symposium will be held in Austin, where a panel of SAMHSA overlords will advise Texas agencies. Day three’s agenda includes Kathryn Power who will speak about “the role of consumers in Texas mental health transformation.” Consumers have a role? What luck for consumers! Does it include puking my guts out?
I also have to mention the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, to be used in compliance with SAMHSA’s federal priorities, which are paternalistic enough, but Texas goes one better by instructing the state director to prioritize smoking cessation programs for the S&P mentally ill. Are they unaware of recent Yale studies showing smoking cigarettes helps untangle schizophrenic thought processes? No one mentioned it, my tongue bled waiting for someone to call out the astounding entitlement of hypocrites who assuage their own needs while claiming it’s an altruistic act that we’re just too mindless to take on our own behalf.
And finally, I heard truly ominous language today, “peer to peer education and counseling certification,” not one expert used the term survivor or ex-patient, but they have a new word with reference to “inclusion of the consumerfamily voice. ” Yes, that’s one word, the consumerfamily voice. More on that twisted formulation after some research (did I actually hear what I think I heard, all day?), I wanna see that in print, meanwhile, some good news, it’s time for that:
Residents of the scandal-rocked Texas Youth Commission (TYC) received referrals through an ad hoc counseling program at the request of the Governor’s office. DSHS set up a 24 hour help-line to provide assessment and brief trauma-focused counseling services to youth who experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse while residing in a TYC facility.
With training from DSHS, TYC staff conducted debriefing meetings at each of their facilities and sent letters to youth currently on parole, to educate them about the common effects of post-traumatic stress and the counseling resources available to them. The help-line received 520 calls. Youth who self-referred were authorized for five sessions with a licensed mental health provider. DSHS contracted with 37 local mental health authorities to provide psychological services at all TYC facilities and in communities where youth on parole reside. Psychotherapists will continue to provide counseling through the summer.
And, one more — the Texas School Health Advisory Committee (TSHAC), was created in 2005 by the legislature to educate school kids on clean living, no fun and healthy exercise. Just another braindead catholic agency that has no reason to exist, to wit: Their recommendations to the Council today:
Encourage state agencies to utilize the expertise of the TSHAC when promulgating or amending rules and regulations in areas impacting the health of students in schools.
Schedule an annual meeting with the DSHS Council to present goals, initiatives and strengths of the TSHAC.
Obtain support from the DSHS Council to research and apply for grants.
And then something wonderful happened: Council members
asked if it was possible for TSHAC to develop training for teachers in the proper recognition of aberrant child behavior as indicative of familial abuse and neglect. The request was well received by the TSHAC members who vowed to proceed with developing a mechanism of identifying signs and behaviors that correlate to a child experiencing maltreatment.
Baby steps, but a big deal here in Hell on earth.