The Champions of the Central Texas African American Support Conference

By Damita Miller-Shanklin

The CTAAFS conference is celebrating twenty years this year. If you have followed the conference or attended, you know just how far the conference has come the last twenty years. 

As you know with anything, that survives as long as this conference, some people are committed and dedicated to continuing the meaning and mission of the conference. I took a moment to reach out to some of the members and community persons involved in making the CTAAFS conference continue to reach people in our community.

This is a conversation with Willie Willams, the Chair for the 2020 Conference in February.

Willie Williams, Chair of the 2020 CTAAFSC

Ujima: How long have you been a part of the CTAAFS conference or board member?

Williams: I have been involved with the conference 20+ years. I am honored that David Evans, CEO, Integral Care (formally ATCMHMR), invited me to Chair the February 2020 Conference.  

Ujima: Over the last 20 years, how do you think the conference has built a stronger and healthier community; especially within the Black community? 

The CTAASC Programs for 2000-2003 present informative picture of the community’s involvement in the early years. The Conference Welcoming letters written by David Evans, CEO, I.C. and the Conference Chair provide an insight to the collaborative partnership required to address our community’s Mental Health (MH), Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and Intellectual Developmental Disorders (IDD) challenges.  

Sophia King died June 11th, 2002 and the Mayor’s Committee on Mental Health held it inaugural meeting in August 2004. Both events influenced the conference’s keynote speaker and workshop presentation selection. In 2002 David Satcher MD Ph.D., 16th Surgeon General of US and Assistant Secretary of Health and King Davis, Ph.D. Initially CTAAFSC focused on MH, SUD and IDD. Today we focus on integrated health (physical, emotional, spiritual wellness), destigmatize via use of people first language. All workshops are presented by or with an individual with lived experience and or family members of individual with lived experience. 

  • Increased engagement of the clergy/faith community. In 2000 the opening workshop “Dispel Myths Regarding Mental Illness” was presented by a panel of three ministers. In 2012 (?) the conference initiated a Clergy only workshop track. For many, it was their first opportunity to discuss MH, SUD and related health issues with other ministers. Some shared their own MH, and SUD challenges. At the 2013-14 conference , IC provided the 8 hour “National Mental Health Fist Aid Certification” training to (42) forty-two Clergy (men/women). As a result of this training success IC continued to reach out to church ministries.
  • In 2008 CTAAFSC & Hogg Foundation for Mental Health (HFMH) leadership collaborated to create the “Austin Area African American Behavior Health Network” (4ABHN). The 4ABHN was created to help African Americans who are interested in mental health issues connect. The 4ABHN has an online resource directory for African American and culturally competent providers / organizations. The 4ABHN host the annual meet & greet reception at CTAAFSC Conference. It’s an opportunity for community members to meet providers of diverse services in an informal setting. Before the 4ABHN Resource Directory, the community had a limited directory of Black and/or culturally component service providers, Volunteer/ Advocacy opportunities. The HFMH has hosted the 4ABHN for (10) ten years and provides staffing and funding. 
  • For 20 years the CTAAFSC has provided a no cost/low cost opportunity for the Black Community to meet, discuss, befriend and learn from individuals who look like them and often share the similar lived experiences.
  •  Thousands’ of individuals with lived experience, family members now know that they are not alone and that recovery is possible
  • Clinicians and support organizations have an opportunity to meet and learn from African American individuals with lived experience and family members. 
  • To kick off our 20th Anniversary celebration, the CTAAFSC is hosting a Pre-Conference Reception at the George Washington Carver Museum on Friday, January 17, 2020. The reception is an opportunity for our community to come together to enjoy entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, beverages and fellowship as well as learn more about the conference and IC. 

Ujima: When you reflect on the legacy of the CTAAFS conference, what do you think it will be?


  • The CTAAFSC inspired hope for a brighter future, a belief that recovery is possible and that recovery does not look the same for everyone.
  • The CTAAFSC provided attendees the opportunity meet, socialize and learn from people that look like them and who share similar stories.  
  • The CTAAFSC was more like a revival/ awakening than a conference
  • The CTAAFSC was a high quality, low to no cost conference. 

Central Texas African American Family Support Conference was a collaboration/partnership between Integral Care (formally ATCMHMR), the African American Community and other stakeholders dedicated to the empowerment of families and individuals with IDD, MI, SUD needs.  

There were three keys to the CTAAFSC’s success: 1) Securing active planning committee participation of individuals with lived experience and the immediately family members of individuals with lived experience; 2) Having a hosting entity e.g. IC whose mission aligns with the conferences mission and that is committed to providing in kind and financial support; 3) Having a planning body that actively mentored future conference leaders. 

Ujima: What have you observed to be the impact of the conference up to now and the hope for the future? 


  • The conference was born from a desire to confront the systems and cultural bias that have resulted in Africa Americans facing barriers to health care access. This is especially true when we seek MH, SUD and IDD services. Twenty years later CTAAFSC is the longest running conference of its type in US. – (Davis, UT-Austin.) 
  • The conference has made a difference in the life of many attendees. Many conference attendees return as presenters, become planning committee members and a couple are now motivational speakers (telling their recovery story).
  • In 2008 CTAAFSC & Hogg Foundation for Mental Health leadership collaborated to create the “Austin Area African American Behavior Health Network” (4ABHN). The 4ABHN was created to help African Americans who are interested in mental health issues connect. The 4AB
  • HN has an online resource directory for African American and culturally competent providers / organizations. 
  • The activity of 4ABHN influenced the forming to the Asian American Behavioral Health Network (AABH). 

Envisioning the future

The conference remains focused on it mission while diversifying its revenue stream. 

The conference leadership reach out to the growing the Afrocentric communities. There may be opportunities???  

The Conference continues to support Sigma Pi Phi also called Boule’. They are hosting “Yes to Best”—(Y2B) event. Y2B is an event for young adults 16 to 23YOA that addresses MH and related topics. Y2B will have their inaugural event on Feb.8th at St Edwards Univ.

Ujima: In celebrating 20 years of the conference, what do you want people to know about CTAAFSC?

Willie: The CTAAFSC is driven by individuals w/ lived experience & their family members, and the target audience is the African American Community. 

CTAAFSC is a collaboration/partnership between Integral Care (formally ATCMHMR), the African American Community and other stakeholders dedicated to the empowerment of families and individuals. 

The conference provides opportunities to learn more about mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, substance use disorder and physical health challenges and solutions. It’s a place to discover health services and how to help yourself and others get the care you need.

The conference is filled with the most current information on mental health, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities, led by caring health experts and people with their own lived experiences with these conditions. Annually, we come together to promote our health and wellness and that of our community.

Ujima: How can people learn more and become involved?

Willie: Visit: 

Ujima: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about CTAAFS conference?

Willie:In 2006, The Garnet F. Coleman “Eternal Flame” Award was created to honor Texas State Representative Garnet F. Coleman. The award acknowledges his lifelong local, state and national work as well as his unwavering advocacy and achievements in health and human services. 

Some award recipients include: Representative Wilhelmina Delco, Judge Sam Biscoe, Marva Overton, Anthony Haley, Shannon Jones, Judge Nancy Hohengarten, and Brenda Coleman-Beattie.

Richard Hopkins and Dr. Exalton Delco. Both were IC Board of Trustees 1993. Richard Hopkin worked closely with the Committee . Mr Hopkins was the Champion,/ Board. Of Trustees liaison to the Conference. When ever there was an effort to reduce conference funding or change the primary target audience, Mr Hopkins influenced the board to maintain or increase its support and participate in the Conference. The PES building on Airport Blvd was named in honor of is leadership and contribution to IC and community. 

The recent awards given to CTAAFSC, the Community Assessment Network (CAN) notified IC that the CTAAFSC is the recipient another distinguished award. The celebration is January 10th.  

 2019 CAN Butler Award: Spirit of Collaboration Organization or Collaborative Initiative   

The awards honors an organization or collaborative initiative that has worked to bring together people, organizations, civic, business and/or community groups or initiatives to collectively address community needs effectively, thus improving the health, well-being and safety of the community.

The CTAAFSC received national recognition. 

National Council for Community Behavioral Health, 2010 Award for Excellence-Consumer and Family Advocacy.... IC’s CTAAFSC 

Please visit http://ctaafsc.comclick Planning Documents & tools. You can view the Conference programs. 

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