New Texas Mental Illness Advocacy Council Members Selected for 2019

Posted on

November 15, 2018

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: Lisa Broussard of Willis and Samantha Smith of Dallas.

Returning members include Anna Gray of San Antonio (Chair), Bennett Brier of Austin, Maria Anna Esparza of Spring Branch, Meredith Jones of Hutto, John King of Austin, Garry Lewis of Beaumont, Chelsea McDonald of Houston, Jim Navarro of Edinburg, Rob Novick of Plano, Destiny Richardson of Houston, Jon Vandiver of Carollton, 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

A mother of three children who have received a mental health diagnosis and a consumer herself, Lisa Broussard is passionate about helping children with mental health issues. In the past, she worked at a residential treatment facility, serving underage children who were victims of sex trafficking. Broussard is able to provide a unique perspective to the Council as a parent of children with mental health issues with knowledge of the services available for them. Having also been the parent of a foster child, she advocates for educators to be equipped with the necessary skills to make sure students with disabilities are not excluded and are receiving positive behavior interventions and supports.

Samantha Smith has been a proud advocate for mental health her whole life. Her own extensive treatment propelled her to start a mental health blog. Through her public speaking, she aims to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental illness to help others overcome their mental health issues. She has also done advocate work with children and women through volunteer opportunities with Dallas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center. Smith received a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Management from Texas A&M University. In addition to mental health, her passion extends to advocating for civil rights and services for underserved communities. In the past, she has collaborated with local advocacy centers and non-profits on special policy development and administration projects.

“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.