Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

Patients seeking both mental and physical health services may soon have a place to go for all-in-one care, a move proponents say could possibly prevent further health problems for patients.

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, an organization seeking advance treatment of mental health patients, is granting $720,950 to various Texas health care organizations to plan and implement coordinated mental and physical health care programs. The grant will help the organizations provide mental and physical health services in the same locations. Five health care organizations, including Harris County Protective Services in Houston and Austin’s Seton Fund, are receiving grants for planning.

Six organizations, including Georgetown home health care provider Lone Star Circle of Care, are receiving grant money to implement integrated care.

Rick Ybarra, program officer for the grant initiative at the Hogg Foundation, said any pairing of mental and physical disorders is detrimental. Ybarra said the Hogg Foundation has worked since 2006 for this initiative and making integrated health care a standard in Texas is finally an attainable goal.

“The Hogg Foundation strives to achieve a triple aim: better outcomes, greater patient satisfaction and decreased cost for treatment,” Ybarra said. “A patient does not need to go to the same old clinic down the road. They need coordinated care.”

Currently Texas does not require mental and physical health care providers to coordinate services, a stance the foundation says leads to further health problems in patients. In a statement, the Hogg Foundation said treating physical and mental issues simultaneously can lead to a faster recovery.

Stacy Wilson, a lawyer for the Texas Hospital Association, said primary care physicians are not prepared for patients with mental health conditions. The association advocates on behalf of health care professionals and educates the public about health regulations. Wilson said these primary care doctors are on the forefront of this issue because simply referring a patient needing mental care to another physician only complicates treatment.

“With this grant we have some really good starts, but we also have a long way to go,” Wilson said.

Wilson said if patients cannot be treated all at once, they tend to become sicker, more aggressive, more harmful to themselves and others and require more resources.

Bill Schlesinger, CEO of grant recipient Project Vida, said integrated health care seems like an obvious path. He said he believes that the state of Texas and the world will eventually move toward the integrated health care systems because they are more effective. Project Vida is the only organization receiving grant money for both planning and implementation.

Schlesinger said Project Vida needs to hire a variety of physicians in order to provide mental and physical health services to patients.

“A lot of people simultaneously suffer from anxiety or depression and diabetes or hypertension. Treating one of those at a time only makes it harder for the patient. We need to be able to treat those disorders at the same time,” Schlesinger said.

Printed on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 as: Grant funds coordinated health care

Workers who help low-income Houston youth will better understand children’s mental health thanks to grants from UT’s Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

The workers who will be trained encounter youth with various mental health issues, but have not received prior mental health training. The Hogg Foundation partnered with St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities to fund mental health training for Houston non-profits.

The foundation gives grants statewide to promote mental health, but these grants come from a fund that founder and late philanthropist Ima Hogg set aside for Houston, where she spent most of her life.

The non-profits receiving funds from the foundation include the Boys and Girls Country of Houston, the Texas Association for Infant Mental Health and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston. The National Alliance on Mental Illness Metropolitan Houston and West Houston are receiving $5,000 from St. Luke’s.

The Boys and Girls Country of Houston provides family environments for 88 youths whose families are unable to care for them. The youths live in cottages with “teaching parents” who live with groups of the youths and help support them in school and extracurriculars as a parent would.

Elaine Petranek, the non-profit’s director of development, said a total of 40 staffers, including the teaching parents, will receive mental health training due to the $12,671 grant from the foundation.

“We don’t have a million-dollar grant coming in from the government,” Petranek said. “We live on grants of this size.”

Petranek said training will help the teaching parents recognize different challenges the youths face and better understand which resources will best help them.

“Teaching parents are always eager to get as much information as they can to know how to raise our kids,” Petranek said.

The Texas Association for Infant Mental Health teaches workers who interact with children of low-income families about childhood brain development. The non-profit received a $39,411 grant from the foundation to train 60 childcare workers as well as 30 Child Protective Services workers and foster care parents.

Sarah Crockett, the education coordinator for the non-profit, said part of the training is to dispel myths about infant care. An example of this is the belief that infants can’t remember events during the early stages of development so it doesn’t matter if they form attachments to people and places.

“A lot of time infants are moved more and it’s actually most detrimental to infants,” Crockett said. “So that’s actually one of our biggest goals in working with Child Protective Services — to teach them about separation.”

Crockett said the goal of training is to help the workers understand how important their role is in these children’s lives.

“The idea is if you can make little changes in how you interact with infants it makes huge impacts with their cognitive, social and emotional development,” Crockett said.

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health awarded the Ima Hogg Scholarship for Mental Health to social work graduate student Steven Smith and four students from other Texas universities Monday.

Foundation spokeswoman Merrell Foote said two students from each of the 12 accredited graduate social work programs in Texas can apply for the $5,000 scholarship, which has been awarded annually since 1956, when Ima Hogg created it to attract students to mental health careers.

“We [chose] the top five based on a variety of criteria, including the students’ demonstrated interest in working in the mental health field,” Foote said. “It’s not so much about funding research — we have other grants [for that]. These scholarships are specifically for grad students in social work who plan on providing mental health services.”

Texas is experiencing a mental health care workforce shortage, according to a policy brief released in March by Methodist Healthcare Ministries and the Hogg Foundation.

Texas already had fewer mental health care professionals per capita than the national average in 2000, and since then the numbers per capita have dropped further. In 2009, the latest year with available numbers, 171 of 254 Texas counties did not have a single psychiatrist, 102 counties did not have a psychologist and 40 counties did not have any social workers. According to the brief, the shortage has multiple causes, including low pay, an aging workforce and recruitment issues.

“These scholarships enable the recipients to finish their advanced studies and begin practicing their profession at a time when these skills and knowledge are sorely needed,” said Hogg Foundation executive director Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., in a press release.

Smith, a second-year graduate student in the School of Social Work, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Texas A&M in 1994 and volunteered in the Peace Corps from 1996 to 1998. During his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in St. Lucia, West Indies, he decided to pursue a profession dedicated to helping others, according to a profile on him on the Hogg Foundation’s website.

“I want to develop a broad clinical skill set that can be applied in a variety of settings with children and families,” Smith said in the profile. “For example, many children and adolescents who are resistant to therapy, especially boys, may respond well to outdoor/adventure therapy.”

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health will invest $1.5 million to fund their bilingual scholarship program for three more years, said Octavio Martinez Jr., executive director of the foundation.

This is the third year the foundation gave full tuition scholarships to social work graduate students who speak English and Spanish.

Twelve universities in Texas, including UT, are accredited by the national Council on Social Work Education, and participate in the scholarship program.

“The state of Texas has a great deal of shortages in social workers, in psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners and licensed physiologists and it becomes even more acute when you want to find a workforce in those respective fields who have multilingual skills,” Martinez said.

The scholarship requires that after graduation, recipients must agree to provide mental health services in Texas for the period equal to the period of their scholarship.

The foundation decided this year to expand the program to be multilingual and include languages other than English or Spanish. The University of Houston submitted a proposal to accept applicants who spoke Vietnamese or Mandarin which are prevalent in Houston.

The universities will implement the program either next spring or next fall.

The funds for the next three years will pay for each student tuition, stipends for student travel for annual meetings, professional development, including assigned professional mentors, and funding for the continuation scholarships.

Program officer Rick Ybarra said the foundation is investing in sustainability to see the program continue after the additional three years is up.

“One of the things that we would like to see at the end of this project is for the scholarship to continue in some shape or form at each of the universities,” Ybarra said. “We want to work with [the universities] to identify new funding sources, how they can create partnerships to support some type of scholarship.”

Social work graduate student Elizabeth Harvey received the scholarship in the summer for two years of graduate study. If it were not for the scholarship, she would not have been a full time student, she said.

“When we graduate with less debt, it gives us greater freedom in what kind of job we would want,” Harvey said. “I’ll be able to get a job that is maybe less high paying and be able to serve traditionally underserved populations because I have more flexibility.”