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Supporting an overlooked — and often uninsured — population of artists

Originally published: September 2017

The SIMS Foundation tackles mental illness and addiction head-on in the Austin, Texas, music community. The organization was established after local music legend Sims Ellison died by suicide in 1995. Ellison's death shocked the community and brought awareness to mental illness among musicians — and the lack of local access to affordable treatment.

The foundation set out with a mission to provide mental health services to low-income, uninsured professional musicians battling mental illness, drug addiction and other behavioral health conditions. Today, a network of more than 80 mental health providers is doing exactly that.

Based on income, musicians pay a sliding-scale fee for access to our network of psychiatrists, counselors and other mental health providers. Through partnerships with Austin's Central Health and St. David's HealthCare, the SIMS Foundation is able to deliver prime mental health services for clients at unprecedented speed and minimal expense — without sacrificing quality of care.

Creating this model was not an instantaneous success, and took time to grow into what it's become today. My advice for any organization considering this approach is to:

1) Be honest with your community about what you are capable of providing.

2) Start small, and don't rush the process. You are not going to start with 81 providers, but having even just 3 can set you on the path for success.

3) Invest in creating partnerships with the health care providers in your area, to not only provide better services, but also to access more funds to run your programs.

4) Lastly, give SIMS Foundation a call — we will be more than happy to share our insights!

Our impact is measured in countless healthy relationships, strong coping skills for stress, recovery from alcohol and drug addictions, tools to tackle depression and other serious mental health conditions.



MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.




Clinical Director, SIMS Foundation