New Texas Mental Illness Advocacy Council Members Selected for 2018

Posted on

November 15, 2017

Edie Surtees, Communications Director

AUSTIN—Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) welcomes the following new members to its Protection and Advocacy for Individual with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council: Bennett Brier of Austin, Meredith Jones of Hutto, John King of Austin, Rob Novick of Plano, and Jon Vandiver of Carollton,

Returning members to the Council are Anna Gray of San Antonio (Chair), Maria Anna Esparza of Spring Branch, Garry Lewis of Beaumont, Chelsea McDonald of Houston, Jim Navarro of Edinburg, Diana Reinhart of Austin, Destiny Richardson of Houston, and Terri Wolaver of Abilene.

The Council is mandated by the federal PAIMI Act which requires each state to establish and operate a protection and advocacy (P&A) system for individuals with mental illness. PAIMI Advisory Council members advise the P&A system on policies and priorities that protect and advocate for the rights of such individuals.

Persons with mental illness, family members, and professionals are represented on the Council. DRTx is committed to appointing members representative of Texas’ diverse ethnic and cultural communities and makes efforts to ensure the Council reflects different geographic areas of the state.

About Our New Council Members

Bennett Brier is a Business Analyst with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He graduated with Government and Business degrees from Austin College. He served as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) working on revitalization, consumer, and child abuse issues. Brier also served for 20 years as a union steward at the VA. He helped his brother with a developmental disability live an independent and dignified life by securing a range of government and private  benefits. During this time, he served on STAR+PLUS Quality Council developing policy recommendations to ensure eligible recipients receive quality acute care services and long-term services in an integrated setting through the STAR+PLUS Medicaid managed care program. Brier champions the ability of those with disabilities,and their familie to gain access to services and apply for and retain the best public benefits available.

Meredith Jones is the Community Outreach & Education Coordinator with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services. His experience includes working with transitional aged youth, community re-entry and co-occurring challenges as both a Certified Peer Specialist, Peer Recovery Support Specialist, Certified Family Partner and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor Intern.  For Jones, being a Recovery Coach is an incredible opportunity to role model success in the world of recovery.  As he battled his own challenges and a mental health diagnosis, his desire to live a self-directed life overpowered his addiction to hopelessness. Jones’ behavioral health career includes training and facilitating recovery support groups and classes including Youth Mental Health First Aid, Offender Education, Conflict Resolution, Anger Management, and WRAP classes along with Hearing Voices Network (HVN), SMART Recovery, and NAMI support groups. In his spare time, he attends school at Texas A&M University – Central Texas; School of Social Work.

John King began advocating for mental health recovery opportunities in early 2013 as part of his own mental health journey. He uses his personal story to help empower others in their own journey to wellness. King is a determined advocate for those with mental health challenges who find themselves involved in the Criminal Justice setting. He serves as a group facilitator and WRAP trainer for the Jefferson County Drug Intervention Court and Probation Department. He is a Certified Peer Specialist, Recovery Coach, and Emotional CPR Trainer. King is President of the Board of the Beaumont Hope Center, Inc. (A Consumer Operated Service Provider), and Chairman of the Via Hope Certified Peer Specialist Planning and Advisory Council.

Rob Novick received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in Austin, and Master’s of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas in Arlington, graduating first in his class. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) specializing in mental illness, as well as those living with dementia and other illnesses acquired later in life. He has worked in some of the top rated hospitals in the DFW Metroplex. Novick was the Director of Clinical Services at a non-profit organization and has held Director-level positions for a hospital in both inpatient and outpatient services. Since 2013, he has served as the EAP Director for the Texas Rangers Baseball Club. In 2008, Novick started Full Circle Counseling & Consulting (formerly Full Circle Advisors), which guides, educates, and counsels families involved in the caregiving of those with mental illness and aging loved ones.

Jon Vandiver is a Senior Technical Auditor for AT&T.  He served eight years on the Board of Directors of Disability Rights Texas including service as the Board Chair. He is a veteran and a lifetime member of the American Legion. In prior employment positions and volunteer work, Jon has more than 27 years of experience with disabilities and mental health advocacy. He was a gold medal recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award with over 250 hours of volunteer service to the community.

“I am honored to welcome these outstanding individuals to our PAIMI Council,” said Mary Faithfull, executive director of Disability Rights Texas. “They have strong personal records of supporting and advocating for the rights of people with mental illness. I believe each brings a unique perspective and will add tremendous value to our organization.”

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Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.

Visit www.DRTx.org for more information.