Bray: Champion of Change

Sept. 1, 2012

From left, Steve Bewsey, director of Housing and Homelessness Services for Youth at LifeWorks in Austin; Bryan Samuels, commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Dr. James Bray, BCM.
From left, Steve Bewsey, director of Housing and Homelessness Services for Youth at LifeWorks in Austin; Bryan Samuels, commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Dr. James Bray, BCM.

Dr. James Bray, associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, recently made a trip to Washington, D.C. as an invited speaker for the Champion of Change event, which honored everyday Americans for doing extraordinary things in their communities. The program is a part of the White House Office of Public Engagement and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Bray attended the ceremony to recognize groups for their innovative and impactful approaches to addressing homelessness among children and youth in their communities.

Commitment to ending homelessness

Bray's participation was a result of his work as American Psychological Association president. He ran a task force on the role of psychology in ending homelessness and worked with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness to develop a strategic plan.

The work of the agency emphasizes evidence-based approaches that can be implemented and replicated in multiple settings and states across the nation, Bray said. The evidence-based work indicates that the best outcomes are achieved when youth are reunited with their families and there is a stable environment created.

"It was a pleasure to represent the American Psychological Association at the Champions for Change meeting," Bray said. "The meeting afforded me the opportunity to hear about the latest developments in the federal government's plans for preventing and ending homeless and also talk with senior members of the White House and federal agencies on ways to approach this problem."

Many people in attendance, including Obama administration and Congress members, talked about how homeless youth today are suffering from more mental health and substance abuse problems than in the past, Bray said. It is important to lower bureaucratic requirements and create low thresholds for youth to obtain services, he said.

Role of Accountable Care Act

"Recent bi-partisan Congressional action authorized the Harth Act and expanded services for youth to age 20," Bray said. "A big question now is how the Accountable Care Act and the implementation of health care reform will impact health care for homeless youth."

The event, held in the Eisenhower Executive Building at the White House, reflects recommendations from the 2010 Federal strategic plan, "Opening Doors," which is the nation's first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. It serves as a roadmap for joint action by U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.