Dr. Susan Stone, a great friend of the Hogg Foundation, a champion for people living with mental illness

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The passing of Dr. Susan A. Stone, J.D., M.D., on Sunday, September 8, has left a gaping hole in our hearts and a tremendous void among people in Texas (and beyond) working to promote recovery and improve mental health services for all in need.

It is difficult for me to conceive of Texas without Susan.  For years she brought her formidable skills and endless passion to a variety of complex and weighty projects.  She collaborated with the Hogg Foundation countless times, leading to concrete and significant reforms that are hard to imagine without her deft touch. Working with her has made me a better professional and getting to know her has enriched my life as a person.

It is impossible to summarize the scope of Susan’s impact, but let me share a few highlights. Early on at my time at the foundation, Susan became involved in the Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force, which was created in response to the tragic death of Sophia King.  Ultimately Susan’s leadership of the Indicator Improvement Initiative led to the creation of community-based behavioral health indicators and an analytical process that identified inefficiencies and human costs in our local service system.  The project has become a national model due to her vision and hard work:  http://www.integralcare.org/content/indicator-improvement-initiative

Susan had long been concerned about replacing coercive interventions with more therapeutic approaches in a variety of treatment settings.  Her work on a complex evaluation of Hogg’s multifaceted project to reduce reliance on seclusion and restraint in Texas identified concrete improvements successfully implemented by a number of service providers: http://www.hogg.utexas.edu/uploads/documents/SRRIEval_FINAL1.pdf

Susan was never one to avoid a challenge.  She was frustrated by cumbersome and dated procedures in the Texas Mental Health Code and coordinated a team of experts, guided by community meetings statewide, in developing recommendations for the Texas Legislature to overhaul the civil commitment process, which was last updated over 25 years ago:

Susan was generous with her time and was always eager to educate people about various aspects of mental health in Texas. Because (or perhaps despite) her vast knowledge framed by many years of graduate studies and even more years of clinical practice, she had a gift for clearly explaining complex phenomena to non-specialists.  For years the state bar turned to her to educate lawyers working with our most vulnerable children, those in special education, child welfare, or the juvenile justice system: http://www.texasbarcle.com/materials/Programs/2715/Brochure.pdf

Susan was my go-to person when I needed to understand something better or wanted to figure something out.  Her brilliance and kindness are a rare combination in this world. Her impact on Texas is immeasurable, in part because of her modesty about her significant accomplishments.  Texas is a far better place because of her dedication and hard work. I will miss her professionally and I already miss her personally.

7 thoughts on “Dr. Susan Stone, a great friend of the Hogg Foundation, a champion for people living with mental illness

    Mildred Vuris said:
    September 10, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Thank you, Lynda, for this beautiful article about Susan. What a void this magnificent woman leaves.

    beyondtoday2 said:
    September 10, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Thank you for Lynda for this post as so many entities and people in the State are distraught. Your blog provides a lovely rendition that we can share among each other.

    Willie Williams said:
    September 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you for the article about Susan. Her kindness and leadership will be remembered.

    Darla said:
    September 11, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Yes, thanks, Lynda, for sharing just how special Susan was to so many….it is very difficult to think about all the broken hearts out there with this loss. I will miss her both professionally as well as personally. She was a rock in the world of change that we all so want to see. I hope now we double down to make sure her visions happen….

    Sherri Hammack said:
    September 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you for highlighting some of Susan’s work and illustrating her spirit and impact, Lynda. My heart aches for her family and all of us that knew her and depended on her, professionally and personally.

    Diana Kern said:
    September 11, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I am so sad. What a huge loss. I loved working with her on projects. She had so much integrity and gave me hope that change was possible for the mental health system and the persons we serve. My thoughts are with Dr Van Norman.

    Susan Fordice said:
    September 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    My first memory of Susan was when she worked with MHA Houston and law enforcement. The result was the CIT program in Houston. Today HPD has a mental health division. We didn’t use email in those days. We always made sure the fax machine had paper when we left at the end of the day because Susan was likely to fax us at 2:00 a.m. She worked on many things with us including the Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative and our most recent work in schools. A force for change. Few people will have the impact she had on so many. She taught us a great deal. We are forever changed and thankful for her wisdom and grace.

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