Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Joins Mayor’s Task Force to Make Austin a “Mentally Healthy Community”
September 1, 2004
On August 6, the Hogg Foundation joined with City of Austin Mayor Will Wynn and other local officials in announcing the creation of a task force to address issues concerning the challenges faced by people with mental illnesses in the city.
The initiative is the result of shared concerns among mental health professionals and advocates who have partnered with Wynn in defining how Austin can become a "mentally healthy community" and then work toward that goal by addressing the gaps in mental health services and reducing the burden of chronic mental health conditions.
"I look forward to great results from this process, knowing that our community will greatly benefit from the viable solutions the Mental Health Task Force will provide," said Mayor Wynn.
The task force will be led by former Texas State Rep. Wilhelmina Delco of Austin and former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia. It is comprised of four subcommittees–criminal justice, short- and long-term treatment, housing, and education and community awareness–that are charged with considering a number of needs and opportunities within 120 days, at the end of which it will deliver a report on ways the city can address the mental health needs and priorities of its citizens.
The Hogg Foundation has committed to be a partner in the task force process, supplying not only the financial resources for bringing in expert mental health consultants and facilitators, but also the participation of its executive director, Dr. King Davis, associate director for mental health policy and law, Dr. Lynda Frost, and program officers Reymundo Rodriguez and Carolyn Young on the task force planning committee and subcommittees.
"We are very enthusiastic about working with the Mayor's Task Force in addressing local mental health needs and opportunities," Davis said. "We hope the leadership being shown by the city will serve as a model for other municipalities across the state to consider how to develop mentally healthy communities."
The task force comes in the wake of several tragic incidents involving citizens suffering from mental illness in the previous two years. In 2002, Sophia King, who had a history of mental illness, was shot and killed by Austin police after allegedly charging toward an Austin Housing Authority employee with a butcher knife. In February of 2004, a student at The University of Texas at Austin was arrested for allegedly stabbing a former UT music professor to death during a psychotic episode.
Members of the task force said that by making a commitment to focus on the issue of mental health in the community, the city could hope to make significant strides in addressing such problems and dramatically reducing the potential for similar circumstances in the future.