The 2016 Central Texas African American Family Support Conference celebrated its 16th year of continuing to increase awareness of available health care resources while reducing stigma and addressing health disparities for the African American community. This year’s conference brought together over 500 attendees, 40 exhibitors, 16 interactive workshop sessions, 13 insightful poster presentations and 3 motivating keynote speakers at the Renaissance Hotel for an impactful 2 day conference. Here are a few comments from conference attendees.
“I want to thank you for the beautiful opportunity to attend the conference! I gleaned and learned a lot about the mental health community and surprisingly myself.”
“It was life changing in many ways to say the least! I learned much about the health disparities in the African-American community and the many challenges to health access that face your local area. Attending and interacting with the many consumers and health professionals at the conference definitely added a positive spin on my own personal challenges.”“The overall conference was off the hook!”
“Grateful to be part of this conference. I can’t wait for next year!”
Moderator Sherri Fleming, County Executive for Health and Human Services and Veteran Services, opened the conference along with fellow moderator, Albert Black, Executive Director for Child INC. Dr. Clay Johnston, The Dell Medical School’s Inaugural Dean, shared some words about the importance of integrated health. Following Dr. Johnston’s remarks, Shannon Carr, planning committee Chair, welcomed attendees. Licensed psychotherapist, speaker, author and renowned advocate for people living with mental health issues, Terrie M. Williams kicked off the conference with a moving keynote address recounting her personal struggles with depression and a call to action about “turning your mess into your message.”
Morning breakout sessions covered several topics including understanding mental illness and transforming stigma, using sensitive language when discussing mental health, support for parents of children with disabilities and suicide prevention.
Mr. Albert Black moderated the afternoon’s activities. After the morning breakout sessions, attendees gathered in the main hall for the Inaugural Dr. King Davis and Richard E Hopkins Legacy Luncheon, named in honor of two mental health champions who dedicated their lives to the enhancement of mental health care and access for all. The afternoon’s keynote speaker, Hakeem Rahim, a certified NAMI In Your Own Voice Speaker and Let’s Talk Mental Illness Presenter, delivered a heartfelt speech detailing his journey from diagnosis to recovery and incorporated a visual presentation filled with photography and personal items. The focus of his keynote emphasized that recovery from mental illness is possible with the right support and care plan.
Afternoon breakout sessions covered topics like veterans and homelessness, institutional racism, mental health and the church, the short and long-term effects of trauma, homosexuality, chronic disease impacts on the population, strategies to help recognize mental health disorders and prevention opportunities that strengthen community. Poster presentations of research projects focused on a variety of topics relevant to mental health were held throughout the day. Information on wellness, recovery and professional development were shared as personal stories, community programs or research projects. After the close of the conference’s first day, participants gathered for a reception hosted by the Austin Area African American Behavioral Health Network at the Blue Baker.
The conference’s second day opened with the newly added Roundtable of Resources, an informal forum where several providers held short question and answer sessions with attendees. The morning breakout sessions included topics on online training initiatives addressing gender and racial disparities in healthcare, the impact of deployment on military families, black male grief reactions, integrated healthcare and an Ask-the-Doctor panel.
Sherrie Fleming and Albert Black co-moderated the day’s Garnet F. Coleman Awards Luncheon, named for the honorable Garnet F. Coleman, Texas State Representative of Houston’s House District 147 and champion of mental health in our state.
Dr. Napoleon Higgins, Jr., Houston-area psychiatrist and Medical Director for Hold My Hand Residential Treatment Center, served as the afternoon’s keynote speaker. His address, titled The Mass Incarceration of Black Males in the State of Texas, focused on the impact of incarceration on the African American community and the staggering numbers of mentally ill inmates living without proper access to care.
The scholarships and awards ceremony followed the keynote speech. Sonya Hosey, former planning committee chair was recognized for her work in the previous years with a Commitment to Service Award and gave an emotional acceptance speech that drew on the importance of the conference and how it has affected her life.
During the luncheon, moderator Sherri Fleming recognized 4 scholarship winners whose attendance at the conference was made possible by three generous founders. This year’s scholarship winners were Huston-Tillotson student, Dominique T. Jones; Peer Support Specialist for Haven in San Antonio, Anita Craig; Keisha Webster, from the MHMRA in Bryan, Texas; and Michelle Brown, Certified Family Partner at Denton MHMR.
Following the scholarships presentation, Courtney Bailey, Research Coordinator for the Health Disparities Team at The Dell Medical School, presented this year’s Richard E Hopkins Torch Awards. Named after Richard E. Hopkins, former vice-chair of Austin Travis County Integral Care’s Board of Trustees, Torch Awards are given to individuals whose efforts have helped to improve the lives of people in Central Texas affected by mental health and other issues. This year’s recipients included Dr. Thomas B. Coopwood, Community Leader; Dominique T. Jones, Consumer; Dr. David Luna, Professional; and Dr. Patricia Pickles, Family Member.
After the scholarships and Torch Awards presentation, Marva Overton, Executive Director of the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas, was awarded the Garnet F. Coleman Eternal Flame Award. Usually presented by Representative Coleman following his legislative update, this year’s award was given by moderator Sherri Fleming. Marva Overton accepted the award and gave a few words of thanks.
David Evans, CEO of Austin Travis County Integral Care, closed the conference with his remarks. Reflecting on the conference, he thanked the moderators and planning committee for developing the conference program and also thanked new partners for providing exciting additions to this year’s conference. He remarked on the importance of the conference in light of recent national and local events and shared the inspiration he wrote on the Inspiration Wall: Individuals create a community where healing and recovery can occur.
The 2016 Central Texas African American Family Support Conference was fantastic! We’d like to thank everyone who attended and enriched the conference with their presence and left with something personally meaningful or professionally helpful to take out into the world. We hope attendees enjoyed the inspiring keynote speakers, learned from the dynamic breakout sessions and expanded their network of colleagues and friends. Having a robust attendance at the 16th Annual Central Texas African American Family Support Conference helps we get closer to our goal of increasing access to health care while reducing stigma and eliminating health disparities in our community.
See you in 2017!
We had our first ever Inspiration Wall. We asked the questions: Why Are You Here? Why Is The Conference Important? What Will You Take Away? We got some amazing answers. Here are a few to Why Are You Here:
“To obtain the knowledge I need to uplift myself as well as my peers.”
“To learn the most I can to make an impact on someone else’s life.”
“To finally understand and accept I’m not perfect and it’s ok.”
“I think I was meant to be here to hear what I needed to get the help I deserve.”
The conference was made possible through the generous support from our sponsors. We thank Austin Travis Integral Care, The Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, Huston-Tillotson University, MD Anderson Cancer Network, Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, New Milestones Foundation, Seton Family of Hospitals, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Central Health, St. David’s Foundation, The Wood Group, People’s Community Clinic, A Glimmer of Hope Foundation and NAMI Austin for their sponsorship this year.