Transforming Lives - The Newsletter of The Harris Center Issue 2 - Fall 2016 - Page 2

Legislative Corner Do you want to: » Learn about the legislative process? » Find out who represents you and your family? » Keep up with the 85th Texas Legislature? » Teach your kids about the legislative process? Important Dates of the 85th Texas Legislative Session: Bill pre-filing: November 14, 2016 Opening Day: January 10, 2017 Adjournment sine die: May 29, 2017 Resources Available: Texas House of Representatives Texas Senate Legislative Budget Board Who Represents Me? Address.aspx Citizen Handbook: How the Texas Legislature Works senate/VCenter.htm Kids’ House: Texas House of Representatives Texas Senate Kids Transforming Lives | Fall 2016 The Harris Center Public Affairs 24-Hour HelpLine 713-970-7000 Letter from Steven B. Schnee, Ph.D. Executive Director of The Harris Center Dear FriendsWelcome to this edition of Transforming Lives. As you will see, there have been a number of exciting developments since our last update. While these are just a few of the recent activities taking place at The Harris Center, they are reflective of what we strive to do on a daily basis. Our goal, as always, remains to assist our consumers in such a way that they may live with dignity as fully functioning, participating and contributing members of our community. As we approach the end of 2016 with the knowledge that the 85th Texas Legislature is set to convene on January 10th, it seems appropriate to focus on the current state of mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities in our community. While great strides were made in the past few years in terms of an increase in state funding for the public mental health system coupled with the significant infusion of 1115 Waiver DSRIP funding, the fact remains that Harris County continues to lack the resources necessary to adequately and appropriately address the mental health needs of its residents. In fact, the Mental Health Needs Council of Harris County reports that Harris County is ranked 30th out of 34 among local mental health authorities in per capita state mental health funding, 45% of individuals in our community who need mental health care are uninsured and 76% of the children and adolescents in need of services from the public mental health system in Harris County receive no care. Given this reality, it is no surprise that the Mental Health Needs Council also reports that the limitations in outpatient mental health services through the public system in Harris County result in an over-reliance on psychiatric crisis services and the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In terms of intellectual and developmental disability services, a recent investigation by the Houston Chronicle shed light on the fact that many children with disabilities in need of services through the public school system are not receiving the interventions they need when they need them. In addition, the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit filed to stop the state from implementing significant cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates paid to in-home therapists who provide speech, physical and occupational therapy to children. The concern that children may not get the vital interventions they need in a timely and consistent manner is very real, and it affects families across our community. While these are complicated issues that require more than a simple fix, it is important to remember that our collective voice as service providers, consumers, family members, advocates and community members is a strong one, and it is up to us to speak for those who may not always be able to speak for themselves. The Harris Center looks forward to working closely with our local and state officials in the coming months to find ways to better address the needs of those we serve as well as those additional individuals who may be in need of our services. While I firmly believe that we must focus our energies on finding ways to better meet the ever-increasing needs within our community, we should also make sure we celebrate the positives that have brought us this far. In that spirit, I want to take a moment to recognize someone who has been a driving force in the progress made by The Harris Center toward becoming a more effective and efficient Agency while expanding its continuum of services. Dr. Tom Hamilton’s commitment to The Harris Center over the past 16 years as a member of the Board of Trustees and, most recently, as its Chair is hard to put into a few words, as was evident during our celebration of his service and retirement at the September meeting. However, I want to personally thank him for his dedication, insight and support over the years. He and his wife, Carolyn, have made an indelible difference in the lives of many Harris County residents via their numerous endeavors, and they are truly an example of our community’s efforts to continue Transforming Lives. As always, thank you for your interest in The Harris Center. I wish you and your loved ones a lovely holiday season and new year. Sincerely, Steven B. Schnee, Ph.D. Executive Director