Phillips Public Comments at BHEC Council 6-25-24

Phillips Public Comments at BHEC Council 6-25-24 | Association for Mental Health ProfessionalsThe Austin BBQ Club headed south in I-35 last week to present their public comments in-person to the BHEC Council. These are Phillip's comments.

"My name is Phillip Crum, and I am here in my dual capacities as Joe Citizen and co-founder of the Association for Mental Health Professionals.

On Council Accountability

We need more Council members like John Bielamowicz of the Psych Board, who apparently doesn’t mind asking the hard questions and dealing with friction to achieve the desired outcome. That’s the type of cross-board accountability the Council process needs.

The Council only works as intended when professional members from one board hold members from the other boards accountable; when the public members question and hold the professional members accountable, and both seriously question the need for any proposed rule. A checks-and-balances system properly implemented produces a positive friction. I've heard board and Council members say, "What's it gonna hurt?", as reasoning to pass a rule. That's not friction or accountability. That’s a hard failure to ask the pointed questions and hold your colleagues’ feet to the fire when necessary.  Unless I’m reading the Council’s mandate in the Code incorrectly a Council seat is not a position to hold if you’re not willing to say, “no”, to your colleagues.

On the Rule-Making Process

We obviously don't have access to the behind-the-scenes activities related to the rulemaking process so I'll make 4 points on what we know and what we have repeatedly witnessed.

  1. According to the rulebook Sub-Chapter B 881.20(b), The Council is the final line of defense against ill-advised rules proposed from any source, and has the final say on what proposals are passed and which ones aren't. The Boards cannot be blamed for bad rules passed. That falls squarely in your laps."
  1. There's a checklist of items also in Sub-Chapter B 881.20 (i) against which all proposed rules are to be measured. The apparent ease through which this checklist is navigated to get highly questionable rules passed is very telling and this needs to be addressed.
  2. The 6 questions referenced in the checklist in Sub-Chapter B 881.20 (i) are understandably written by lawyers for lawyers but they are not user-friendly. We’ve studied that checklist a dozen times and we still have no idea what several of those questions are asking. We’ve even drafted a preliminary revision of these rules, if anyone is interested, in an effort to make them more effective as the restrictive screening tool which they were and are intended to be.

We will be submitting a request to the Quadrennial Review team that the checklist be reviewed and re-written for clarity and simplicity to the satisfaction of both the attorneys and the board and council members who need to use them. We would also like to see a public review of each of those 6 questions before a vote is taken on each rule. Why can't that be incorporated into a publicly transparent proposal assessment? 

  1. We're not parliamentarians but we would think it good practice that no one from a board that proposes a rule be allowed to make a motion to pass or second that motion at The Council level. Other Council members should have to do that. We would like to request that whoever has the authority to initiate that change discussion, please do so and let's eliminate that apparent conflict of interest.

Summary & CTA

The BHEC model is somewhat unique amongst state agencies which means other states are watching. Even if it wasn’t unique, this is Texas. People are always watching. Our Council needs far more inter-board accountability, and the rulemaking process has a few holes in it that need to be plugged. It’s not hard, we just have to want to be better.

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About the Author

Phillips Public Comments at BHEC Council 6-25-24 | Association for Mental Health ProfessionalsPhillip's background has blessed him with a variety of interests, skills, and tools to get things done. He spent 25 years in the printing and marketing industry before meeting Kathleen Mills in 2015. They quickly figured out that they made a pretty good business team and, owing to Kathleen's story, embarked upon a mission that would see the creation of and eventually the Association for Mental Health Professionals.

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