Texas CASA Attends Mental Health Conferences

Texas CASA recently attended two conferences related to mental health in October – the Engage and Excel Conference and The Judicial Summit on Mental Health.

On Oct. 23-25, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute held their annual Engage and Excel Conference in Houston. Texas CASA attended the conference to hear from a wide range of panelists and speakers discussing how to enhance our behavioral health system in Texas. Part of the dialogue included supporting children’s mental health and well-being using innovative health systems such as telemental health and integrated care. There was a large emphasis on educating clinicians about integrated care by having behavioral health as part of the primary care model. Panelists reiterated the need to build on this practice due to the statewide shortage of mental health providers for children.

The conference also included a discussion about mental health and child welfare. Dr. John Lyons who developed the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment discussed the efficacy of the assessment and how it is designed to individualize a child’s treatment plan using specific measures for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Dr. Lyons also expressed the importance of continued evaluations during treatment to monitor outcomes and ensure a child’s strengths are being built and needs are met. What’s more, Dr. Rohanna Buchanan, Chief Operating Officer for the Oregon Social Learning Center, shared about her experience as a clinical supervisor for the Treatment Foster Care program in Oregon. She offered insight to other foster care programs in Oregon that aim to keep families together by preventing placement disruptions through supportive interventions for foster and kinship parents.

Texas CASA also attended The Judicial Summit on Mental Health in Houston presented by the Texas Children’s Commission and Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health. The Summit drew attendees from all across the state including judges, state agency staff, policymakers and several advocacy groups.

Speakers presented opportunities for systemic change and how communities can collaborate to develop diversion programs for individuals struggling with a mental illness or substance use disorder. Judge Ruben Reyes of the 72nd district in Lubbock County shared about the positive outcomes of his specialty drug court program that focuses on supporting minor drug offenders with a substance use disorder, empowering them through recovery and supporting them with treatment. The Summit’s keynote speaker, Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo, shared his experience in responding to mental health emergencies and the importance of helping people with mental illness without punitive or criminal procedures. Other presentations included strategies to prevent youth suicide and address disproportionality within the child welfare system.