“People are dying every day from untreated depression,” said Andy Keller, PhD, The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute President and CEO. “But hope remains powerful, and we are proving to Texans that good research and good data creates change. Our organization works with all three branches of government and since 2013, our state has increased its spending on mental health by over $1.5 billion a year.”

Without trusted information on what works and what doesn’t, lawmakers cannot develop legislation that supports the needs of our people. Enter the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, which provides high quality, nonpartisan and objective policy research and development to improve mental health services across the state. These efforts are led by Andy Keller, PhD, who brought more than 20 years of behavioral health policy experience – and plenty of heart – to the Institute when he succeeded beloved local philanthropist, Tom Luce, in 2016.

“The Institute received its initial momentum when Tom was appointed to the Sunset Advisory Commission by Speaker Joe Straus at the same time he joined as CEO in 2014,” said Dr. Keller. “Through the work that began then we’ve proven the credibility of our research and built key relationships with leaders in the Senate and House.”

Did You Know?
20-25% of people in Texas county jails are diagnosed with mental illness, but our jail system is not equipped to deliver care properly. As part of a major jail diversion initiative and with support from the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation at Communities Foundation of Texas, earlier this year the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute launched RIGHT (Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team) Care in Dallas.

Each team is comprised of a fire department paramedic, law enforcement officer, and a licensed mental health clinician or qualified mental health professional. The team works in combination to assess and address issues in each area of specialty. Working together, they determine patient disposition and agree on appropriate action – which may include: medical care transport, stabilization on the scene and continued follow-up and care linkages, or emergency detention.

The team responds in a low-profile fire department vehicle and approaches each situation in a non-stigmatizing way. Early findings are showing that this program is preventing unnecessary jailtime and alleviating over-utilization of law enforcement and local emergency departments.

One of the biggest benefits of the Institute is that they sit outside partisan lines – they exist to listen to Texans, and to share information with leaders on both sides of the aisle.

“…hope remains powerful, and we are proving to Texans that good research and good data creates change."
Andy Keller, PhD, President and CEO of Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute

Last summer, the 85th Texas Legislative session was a landmark for our state in terms of progress for mental health policy. From grant monies and bills that improve access for early childhood mental health services, to a new requirement for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to rebuild and transform state psychiatric hospitals through a three-phase construction plan for current and future biennia – this session was a major step forward and reflective of the realities to which the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute has brought attention.

The Institute also works closely with state agencies. “We have quarterly meetings with the Health and Human Services Commission to support work on their strategic plan, and we collaborate with several work groups under Commissioner Sonja Gaines, including a children’s work group, an adult corrections work group, and a data work group,” said Dr. Keller.

Dr. Keller remains personally inspired by Dr. Madhukar Trivedi’s work at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care. “The work that Dr. Trivedi is bringing together is wonderful because it combines best practices that we know have worked for decades with cutting edge research,” said Dr. Keller. “For example, the VitalSign6 program is helping primary care physicians screen for depression, but it also provides a framework and support for addressing it.”

“We finally have the features in place to acknowledge mental health treatment in the same way we acknowledge any other type of medicine,” said Dr. Keller. “I think this is a golden era we’re looking forward to.”