Over 200 youth, family members, child-serving providers and state and community leaders gathered in Austin for the 2019 Texas System of Care & Community Resource Coordination Groups Conference.

Attendees of the two-day conference, held April 17–19, learned best practices to better coordinate systems and services for young people with significant mental health needs. The conference theme, “Mission Possible: All Systems Go!”, nods to the importance of collaboration across agencies to ensure all Texas children have access to high quality mental health care.

Attendees listening to the opening keynote by Tonier Cain-Muldrow

Keynote speakers included Tonier Cain-Muldrow, CEO and founder of Tonier Cain, International and former team leader for the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care, and Elizabeth Manley, clinical instructor for health and behavioral health policy at the Institute for Innovation and Implementation at the University of Maryland.

Manley says there is an urgency for transformation in children’s behavioral health.

“The current [children’s behavioral health] structure supports youth getting help too late, for too long at the most restrictive settings,” said Manley.

“The system of care framework has a demonstrated history of transformation by identifying and prioritizing the voices of our youth and families and focusing on providing the right care at the right time for the right duration.”

Attendees were able to choose from a number of workshops led by presenters from around the country with expertise in building effective and sustainable systems of care. The conference also featured youth and family member panels discussing what is essential to meaningful youth and family leadership in systems of care and creating youth and family-driven systems.

Allie Herbert, a recent graduate of Baylor University and state board member of ACCEPT Texas, participated on a panel focused on youth voice in recovery along with speakers from University High SchoolPDAP Austin and Alpha 180.

“Youth voice is important within recovery organizations not only for youth involved in recovery, but it diversifies the conversation to interact with youth’s multiple cultures, helping meet a mutual understanding to improve outcomes for everyone,” said Herbert.

“Having more youth voice in the conversations adds more ideas to the table of priorities that may not have been talked about before.”

Texas System of Care is led by Texas Health and Human Services Commission in collaboration with the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, and is funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Texas System of Care aims to improve mental health outcomes for children, youth, and their families by implementing the system of care framework at the state and local levels.