Kim McPherson, St. David's Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer for Healthy Minds

FUNDING AREAS: Mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse

CONTACT: Kmcpherson@stdavidsfoundation.org, 512-879-6590

IP TAKE: With millions of dollars at her disposal every year, McPherson helps get mental and behavioral health services to people in Central Texas through their schools, primary care providers, and community organizations.

PROFILE: The state of Texas is dead last in the country in mental health spending. Some statistics: About 16 percent of Texas prisoners suffer from a mental disorder. In the state's juvenile justice system, 44 percent of young people require treatment from a mental health professional and 75 percent need help for alcohol and/or substance dependency issues. One could infer from these figures that additional spending on behavioral health might save Texas some dollars on the incarceration end. And also help people to be happier, healthier, more productive beings.

The Austin-based St. David's Foundation recognizes the need for additional mental health services in its home state. The foundation currently spends millions every year to help improve behavioral and mental health services in the region. A program officer leading St. David's efforts is Kim McPherson.

McPherson comes to the St. David's Foundation with about 15 years' experience in mental health and health policy. She has worked for several other health-focused organizations, including Health Management Associates, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and Mental Health America.

At St. David's, McPherson directs the strategy to provide behavioral health services in schools and primary care settings and within Texas communities. Essentially, McPherson and her team want mental health care to be accessible to Texans, particularly low-income Texans, in locations that are convenient for them. It's an ambitious, if difficult, goal. But it's also an important one. As McPherson says in an article in the Austin American Statesman, "The [St. David's] Foundation, like everyone else, has realized that mental health is so integral and fundamental to overall health."

St. David's spends approximately $5 million on grants annually in its Healthy Minds program area. Among the grantees: 

  • Austin Recovery, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center
  • The Center for Child Protection, a mental health treatment provider for children in Travis County, Texas, who have been abused
  • SafePlace, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Austin, Texas

The St. David's Foundation invests its money pretty close to home. Some 68 percent of the Foundation's grants go to organizations in Austin's own Travis County. However, that still leaves 32 percent of St. David's dollars for other counties, specifically Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, and Williamson.

And the foundation doesn't invest only in mental health. Other program areas include services for the elderly, education in health fields, childhood obesity, health-care availability, and dental care—all for low-income or otherwise needy Texans.

Applying for funding from the St. David's Foundation is slightly tricky, since the foundation accepts grant applications by invitation only. However, interested Central Texas nonprofits can contact relevant program officers with a one-page summary of a proposed project to discuss potential partnerships and support. Additional information on the St. David's Foundation's grantmaking policies is available here.