Bluebonnet Trails Community Services Director Tiffany Gonzalez (left) has served at Bluebonnet Trails for five years. Executive Director Andrea Richardson started with the nonprofit nine years ago.[/caption]

When Executive Director Andrea Richardson started working for Bluebonnet Trails Community Services nine years ago, she was no stranger to mental health care systems—she said she had worked for a number of others in the state.

“When I started, I felt Bluebonnet didn’t quite meet its potential,” she said. “There was a need for children’s-related services. We had opportunities we hadn’t explored yet.”

Richardson brought in new programs, such as children’s mental health and autism services, within the existing budget.

The nonprofit serves as an umbrella for community and mental health services, offering early childhood intervention, developmental therapies, substance abuse help and crisis assistance. The organization opened its first location in 1997 and has expanded to 16 sites, including one at Cedar Park Regional Medical Center.

Richardson said the Cedar Park location, which opened in April, has already exceeded the organization’s goals.

“Before we opened we had a seven-year growth plan, and we’ve already met that growth period,” Richardson said. “We’re trying to figure out how to expand this opportunity or how to use this resource to the best of its capacity.”

Richardson said the organization works with local law enforcement, schools and hospitals to identify community needs and ways in which Bluebonnet can assist. The only services not available at the Cedar Park location are primary health care and dental care, she said.

“We’re driven a bit differently than other systems of care,” she said. “We were built as a safety net system for Central Texas. We’re not driven by profit; we’re driven by community need.”

Bluebonnet is funded through various resources, including government funds and donations. Richardson said most of the funding comes from the state. After demonstrating that the organization meets certain standards, she said it has to achieve set metrics to maintain funding.

“We’ve built our system on accountability,” she said. “We have to achieve these metrics for the lives of the people we’re serving. We’re seeing miracles here every day, like when a 3-year-old walks for the first time through our early intervention program.”

Richardson said Bluebonnet often lacks the funding to meet the demand. The staff is often finding ways to stretch its resources and serve beyond what it has money for by being efficient and creative, she said.

Tiffany Gonzalez, director of the Williamson County and Burnet County locations, said she has seen a “paradigm shift” in mental health care over the past few years.

“It’s gone from a maintenance model to a recovery model,” she said. “I think Bluebonnet has really embraced that. We believe those miracles can happen.”

As a community-oriented and public program, Bluebonnet Trails also has volunteer and intern programs for those who are interested in the mental health field. Richardson said volunteers frequently have a background in mental health issues or substance abuse, and they are looking to help others. Gonzalez said one of the most valuable resources is the peer network Bluebonnet offers.

“It’s incredibly important as you’re going through recovery to have someone come alongside you and say, ‘I’ve lived through that. I’ve been there,’” Gonzalez said. “It’s a hugely valuable resource.”

With more than 300 partners across eight counties in Central Texas, Richardson said she hopes to see Bluebonnet continue its holistic approach to connecting families in the area to the resources they need.

“When a family walks through the door, we aren’t going to diagnose them immediately,” she said. “We’re going to ask what’s going on. We want to work with the entire family to find ways to bring them together in the strongest way possible.”

Bluebonnet Trails Community Services
1401 Medical Parkway, Medical Office Bldg. II, Ste. 300, Cedar Park
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (office)