Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Texas Group Receives Grant

Mental Health America of Greater Houston (MHA) received $259,092 in grant funding from the Hogg Foundation to help form a statewide network of healthcare providers with the purpose to expand integrated healthcare to treat people’s health in Texas.

Integrated healthcare is gaining recognition in Texas as a viable way to improve healthcare by treating physical and behavioral illnesses together. The 81st Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2196 that would create a statewide work group to make recommendations on integrating physical and behavioral healthcare in Texas. The bill is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

A person’s physical and mental health can be linked. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease often are accompanied by behavioral ailments such as depression or anxiety. Research has shown that people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder die an average of 25 years earlier than people without these disorders. This is largely due to challenges and obstacles in receiving medical treatment.

The problem is that most organizations working on this critical issue are working in silos and sharing little information on lessons learned. Working in isolation leads to a slower pace of change and can inhibit the spread of effective practices.

MHA will work with the foundation during the next 18 months to design, launch and coordinate a statewide learning community. The learning community members will be selected by the foundation through a request for proposals to be issued later in 2009. Members of the community will receive a grant from the foundation to help cover the cost for participation.

Members will work together online and in person to share documents, stories, tools and resources that they have found useful. They will be able to raise questions, discuss issues, and identify potential solutions that may work best for communities throughout the state.

Since 2006, the foundation has funded $2.6 million in grants to promote the practice of integrated healthcare across Texas and in 2008 held a statewide conference on integrated healthcare. Recently, the foundation published a comprehensive overview of integrated healthcare services and research in Texas and the U.S.

The Hogg Foundation founded by the children of former Texas Governor James Hogg, is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. The foundation’s grants and programs support mental health consumer services, research, policy analysis, and public education projects in Texas.