a monthly newsletter from Integral Care [printfriendly]

February: Solutions to Health and Healthcare Disparities


A Message From Our CEO

February marks African American History Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions made by African Americans throughout history and today. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the disparities this community faces in both health and health care.


African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health issues than non-Hispanic whites. Yet historically, African Americans have experienced prejudice and discrimination in the mental health care system. Due to these barriers, the African American community has traditionally relied on family, community and faith for support, rather than consulting healthcare professionals.


In an effort to confront discrimination and cultural bias, increase access to care and reduce stigma, Integral Care established the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference 20 years ago. It is now the longest-running conference focused on mental health, substance use disorder, intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and the African American community. We celebrated the 20th anniversary event this week, packing the Palmer Events Center with nearly 600 people for 2 inspirational days.


This year’s event celebrated the legacy of the conference with three stellar keynote speakers: Dr. King Davis, an expert in mental health and urban policy research and analysis; Dr. Altha Stewart, a community psychiatrist and the first African American to hold the position of President of the American Psychiatric Association; and Le’Andria Johnson, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who shared her powerful story of lived experience with substance use and mental health issues.


We cannot thank them enough for bringing their wisdom and experience to this conference.


Workshop presenters shared pertinent research and personal stories in twenty interactive sessions, including one presented by the African American Church-Based Mental Health and Wellness program (AMEN). Recently launched by the University of Texas School of Nursing, AMEN is one local group offering health solutions. Recognizing the importance of the faith community in supporting congregants’ mental health, the school is partnering with churches to help bring services to those in need, as well as educate pastors in the signs of mental illness. All workshops discussed solutions – some systemic, some personal – and fostered relationships among attendees to build a stronger, healthier community.


The state of Texas recognized the 20th anniversary of this unique conference by issuing a resolution commemorating the anniversary, the County recognized Integral Care and the conference in a proclamation and the City officially proclaimed Feb 11-12 Central Texas African American Family Support Days.


This year also marked the first-ever youth-focused pre-event, held at St. Edward’s University. Yes to BEST!, a mental health and wellness summit, was created for youth and young adults ages 14 to 24. The goal – develop and learn skills to live Beyond our Emotional Stressors and Trauma. The day was filled with music, food and workshops that addressed leading topics around emotional and social wellness. Activities built personal skills and strengthened mind, body and spirit of all who attended.


If you missed the conference, mark your calendars for next year. CTAAFSC will be back at the Palmer Events Center February 2-3, 2021.


Thanks to this conference, its dedicated volunteer planning committee and the work of our local health care community, we are building a stronger-than-ever network of supports for individuals who may have faced disparities and discrimination in the past.



David Evans
Chief Executive Officer


The 2020 Central Texas African American Family Support Conference would not have been possible without our dedicated sponsors: Ascension Seton, Austin Independent School District, Austin Public Health, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, St. David’s Foundation, Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, Epsilon Iota Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Glimmer Austin, Huston-Tillotson University, The Links Inc Town Lake Chapter, Sendero Health Plans, United Way, University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and The Wood Group.


Care for Culture


In support of Travis County’s diverse and steadily growing population, all Integral Care staff participate in our Care for Culture initiative. Sensitivity and responsiveness towards a person’s cultural identity is at the heart of person-centered, trauma-informed care and a significant strategy for reducing health disparities. Important factors that shape a person’s cultural identity are race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability and language.


The Care for Culture initiative provides staff with opportunities to learn more about their own cultural identities, explore unique barriers to care and enhance their ability to embrace the diverse strengths and experiences of others. The initiative includes a 4-hour course, team workshops, and widespread diversity and inclusion efforts.


With the help of our Care for Culture team, Integral Care aims to meet and exceed National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards. The Standards are federal guidelines with the goal of obtaining health equity. They provide a framework for all health organizations to follow, in order to provide superior service to our nation’s diverse communities.


Cultural competency was on Integral Care’s radar before there was ever a mandate. Integral Care applied for an 1115 waiver grant in 2012 to increase support for culturally competent care. The grant allowed our Care for Culture team to develop a foundational course in values and best practices tailored for staff who work in community healthcare. The course ensures a strong understanding of the impact of social determinants of health and the impact of historical discrimination on current health outcomes.


An important part of providing clients what they actually need to succeed comes from staff first knowing their own cultural identity and recognizing their own possible biases. Thanks to Care for Culture, Integral Care staff are having even better person-centered interactions with not just clients, but everyone they meet in their daily lives.


Central Texas African American Family Support Conference Committee

For 20 years, Integral Care and the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference (CTAAFSC) Committee have partnered to organize this yearly event, where individuals, families, faith leaders, health professionals and advocates come together and explore health solutions, foster relationships, reduce stigma and increase access to care.


Each year, the Committee creates the program for the conference, determining the goals and selecting presenters and speakers that will inspire and educate. The Committee is made up of volunteers who are affiliated with a wide spectrum of organizations and entities across Central Texas. Members hail from Austin Independent School District, Health and Human Services, City of Austin, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Texas Juvenile Justice Department, various non-profits and beyond. Members also include a cultural competency consultant, community mental health professionals, a pastor as well as a client and client family members.


Vicky Coffee, Director of Programs for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and CTAAFSC committee member, has been involved since the inception of the conference. Prior to the first conference, Vicky worked for Integral Care as a clinician, where she saw the African American community hesitant to reach out and access services. She says, “I saw the conference as a wake-up call for the African American community and I wanted to be a part of that charge.” 20 years later, she sees the difference this conference makes in the community. “Each year, seeing so many new faces attend, and leave with resources, knowledge and hope they didn’t have before, reinvigorates me and reminds me why I do this work.”


Integral Care is grateful to the CTAAFSC Committee who are invested in seeing equity in mental health care and the decline of stigma around mental health in the community. Thank you all for your service to the community.


If you would like to join the committee, please email

What’s New at Integral Care


January 2020:

December 2019: A Year of Thriving Care & Collaboration

November 2019: Teamwork and Collaboration Impact Homelessness in Travis County

October 2019:Making Strides for World Mental Health

September 2019: Taking Steps to Recovery Support

August 2019: Working Together for Child & Youth Mental Health

July 2019: Legislative Wrap-Up – Some Bipartisan Wins for Healthcare

June 2019: Strengthening Access for Veterans and the Entire Military Family

May 2019: Women and Mental Health

April 2019: Legislative Session Status Report

March 2019: Making Opportunities for Recovery More Accessible

February 2019: Recovery is Possible

January 2019: Stronger Outcomes Through Collaboration

December 2018: Looking ahead to the 86th Texas Legislature

November 2018: How Tech is Changing the Face of Mental Health

October 2018: A Few Questions Could Help Save a Life

September 2018: Anyone Can Save a Life

August 2018: A Milestone Moment

July 2018: Equity in Mental Health Care for All

June 2018: Expanding Services for Veterans

May 2018: Your Mental Health Toolkit

April 2018: Time of Terror Calls for Increased Emotional Support

March 2018: Stopping the cycle of incarceration for individuals with mental illness

February 2018: Equity in mental healthcare for everyone

January 2018 : Improving Mental Health Through Partnership & Collaboration

December 2017: Strength Through Community

November 2017 : Healthy Lifestyles Improve Well-Being

October 2017 : National Child Health Day

September 2017 : Strengthening Families and Communities