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Published on December 20, 2023
School District Gains Counselor, Court Program Enhanced with $25K FundingSource: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦

Hays County's bid to combat its mental health crisis got a double shot in the arm this year. Reports from KXAN detail recent financial boosts to different areas within Hays County that aim to strengthen local mental health services.

On the education front, Hays Consolidated Independent School District (Hays CISD) scored an additional mental health counselor, with the Hays County Commissioners Court approving the funding from the Hays County American Rescue Plan Recovery Grant Agreement. The district, struggling under the weight of a rise in student substance abuse, has been in dire need of such support. Last year, five students tragically succumbed to fentanyl poisonings, with another death reported earlier this school year. "The contract amendment will add additional funding to provide one additional mental health counselor to help bridge the gap in services that are crucial for students and district staff," KXAN reported, echoing concerns previously voiced by Hays CISD's Chief of Safety and Security, Jeri Skrocki, about the lack of available mental health resources.

Parallel to bolstering school support, the Hays County Commissioners Court, having approved a $25,000 contract with Deblin Health Concepts & Associates on June 6, is fortifying the Hays County Mental Health Court Program. The program, designed to aid the unhoused or those with severe mental health and substance use challenges, will now include more robust services such as intensive case management and frequent psychiatric appointments thanks to American Rescue Plan Act funds.

According to Community Impact, Mental Health Court Administrator Kaimi Mattila believes having more clinical staff to complete diagnostic reviews would greatly improve the referral admission process. "Right now it's not as efficient as it could be and having more clinicians that can do these assessments within a week turnaround would greatly increase our numbers and efficiency of the referral process," Mattila said. Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra concurred, adding that the initiative would help the county with its outsourcing costs, stating, "I’m grateful that this is moving forward."

The dual moves signify a major commitment by Hays County towards addressing the growing mental health needs of its community, acknowledging the intersection of health, safety, and societal well-being at a time when public attention to mental health concerns is at a peak. As both the educational and legal systems in Hays County receive these much-needed infusions of support, the hope is that they can begin to turn the tide on a distressing mental health and substance abuse trend.