By Telawna Kirbie
Prosper Waco is committed to serving our community through engagement and collaboration with community partners to improve the functioning and quality of life in three primary areas: health, education, and financial security. The work includes countless Zoom meetings, phone calls, extensive research, data collection, data analysis, reporting, writing, talking, more writing, and more talking, etc.
It is imperative that relationships are established with clear, effective, and open communication. Below are some of the questions that PW collaborates with community partners to answer.
What is a collective goal for our community?
What are the needs specific to our residents?
What resources already exist?
What support can we offer one another to strengthen partners and use resources more efficiently?
What resources do we lack to meet community needs?
Where or how can we access additional resources?
We have been doing this work daily since PW’s inception in 2014. In 2019, under new leadership, PW took a deeper dive and engaged in a more energized and driven approach at answering these questions and assisting the community in seeking solutions. There is, however, still work to be done on a larger scale.
As a community, we can work together and do so on many things. But there are other forces at play that directly affect us at a community level. These other forces include local, state, and federal government. Doing this work brings clearly into focus the areas in need of revision, abolition, or creation of legislation that enhances our community’s ability to thrive.
So, this begs the question, what can we do to create change at the local, state, and governmental levels? This level of change can only occur through public policy advocacy.
When I was in college, I found it difficult to engage in thoughtful consideration through this lens. This was primarily due to a lack of knowledge and understanding, which created fear and caused me to be paralyzed and unable to respond in any meaningful way.
Certainly, I have had my opinions on things and am certainly aware of how governmental legislation affects those I am serving, our community, myself, and my family but affecting change at the public policy level has not yet been my experience. Through my career in social work, one can only imagine the enlightenment I have experienced in the areas of policy work and advocacy. This is in part why I am so excited to share with you that Prosper Waco is moving swiftly in this direction.
PW is witnessing change in our community daily, but to achieve a greater impact we need to be active in seeking policy change at a higher level.
First, we want you to know we are aware that a higher level of systemic change is necessary in many of the areas that affect our health, education, and financial security.
Second, we want you to know we are working with the community collectively so that we can assist in policy change for the common good of Greater Waco.
Third, it is not lost on us that our work will also have the potential to impact not only our community, but Texans, and the broader U.S. population including those seeking U.S. citizenship.
To date, our policy work has not been a primary emphasis, and we have not had a paid position to directly work on policy issues. However, to expand this area of our work, PW applied for grant funding through the Hogg Foundation, whose primary focus is to support work in support of mental health for Texans.
We were delighted to be selected and awarded funding for a two-year Policy Fellow to work in mental health and substance use. We are in the process of selecting and hiring a candidate for this position and hope to have a person in place in July.
We are so excited about this opportunity that will enable us to work on a higher level for systemic change that will benefit us all. If you are someone who meets the criteria for this position (see below) or know someone who does, please apply at Indeed.com.
Our hope is that this is just the beginning of our work to affect change at the public policy level and that it will further expand to cover all the other areas that affect our community’s health, education, and financial security.
TITLE: Mental Health Policy Fellow
EMPLOYMENT STATUS: Non-exempt, Full-time
RESPONSIBILITIES: 1) Support Prosper Waco’s engagement in mental health and substance use policy in Texas by carrying out the program’s goals and objectives.
2) Focus on under-resourced Texas groups and support the engagement and empowerment of local community partners in policy and advocacy to ensure systems, services, and supports are responsive and appropriate.
3) Pursue projects and activities to support local, regional, and statewide policy and advocacy efforts aimed at addressing systemic barriers to community behavioral health and wellbeing.
REPORTS TO: CEO and Director of Behavioral Health Initiatives
RELATES TO: Chief Program Officer, Prosper Waco staff, community, public officials and their offices
Develop and maintain relationships with Prosper Waco staff and other relevant stakeholders.
Support and provide technical assistance to local community partners in serving as convener, capacity builder, and thought leader on transforming mental health and substance use policies, practices, and systems.
Engage, coordinate, and collaborate on statewide policy and advocacy initiatives aimed at improving policies and programs at the state level, including various coalitions.
Educate key stakeholders, including policymakers, on needs of under-resourced Texas communities and opportunities for effective mental health and substance use policy.
Assist in development, tracking, organization, and advancement of Prosper Waco’s legislative priorities related to mental health and substance use.
Mobilize and empower local stakeholders, volunteers, and partner agencies to effectively drive systems-level improvements.
Research and write analysis on current mental health and substance use policy issues; brief policymakers, and civic leaders; and engage with advocates and community groups.
Solicit and utilize the voices of community members with lived experience to provide guidance on policy issues that impact those with mental health and/or substance use conditions.
Engage in additional activities for professional development.
EDUCATION: Required: Earned master's degree or higher (within 18 months) in law, social work, public policy, public health, or a related program.
EXPERIENCE: Prior to application, fellow must have demonstrated interest in mental health or addiction issues, as well as policy advocacy. Applicants with lived experience will be preferred.
Experience and/or knowledge in policy research and advocacy, community engagement, data analysis, communications, public speaking, and analytical/critical thinking skills;
Self-starter; ability to exercise independent judgment and work efficiently with minimal supervision;
Excellent interpersonal skills;
Ability to foster and maintain positive relationships with diverse groups;
Exceptional written and verbal communication skills;
Experience using Microsoft Office Suite (Word, MS Publisher, and PowerPoint);
Experience managing data using Excel and/or SPSS/SAS/STATA is helpful but not required; and
Passionate commitment to mental health, equity, advocacy, social justice, and nonprofit work.
Job Type: Full-time
Paid time off
8 hour shift
Monday to Friday
We encourage all employees to be fully vaccinated. We have no other protocols in place at this time.
Telawna Kirbie, LCSW-S, is director of behavioral health initiatives with Prosper Waco.