Hays County Commissioners Court authorized an additional $195,602 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for expanding the county’s Mental Health Specialty Courts program at their regular meeting March 28.

The funds will go toward increased intergovernmental revenue—which is funding from another agency—data supplies, software maintenance and licenses, printing, computer equipment, and contract services.

A breakdown of the increased funding is as follows:
  • Contract services: $189,940
  • Data supplies: $703
  • Software maintenance and licenses: $2,130
  • Printing services: $1,500
  • Computer equipment: $1,329
So far, the contract services portion includes five contracts totaling $119,940 that were also unanimously approved by the court for counseling and transitional housing.

According to agenda documents, the cost of each contract will not exceed the amounts below:
  • Nichole Mueller-McMorris: $15,000
  • Allison and Associates: $15,000
  • Lisa Hinson: $15,000
  • Moonstone: $30,000
  • Horton House: $44,940

The counseling contracts will give the Mental Health Specialty Courts the ability to set up a referral flow and agreement that Hays County will pay for counseling services for those who cannot afford copays or do not have health insurance to cover the cost of counseling. Each provider offers different specialties, such as substance use and trauma-focused counseling, as well as telehealth and in-person counseling.

There are nine individuals making their way through the mental health court program, and the program is expected to grow to 30-35 individuals in the next year, according to the county’s Mental Health Court Administrator Kaimi Mattila.

“As the court grows, so does our need to expand services to meet each individual court participant’s needs. This includes the need for counseling services, including trauma-focused therapies and substance use counseling, transitional housing for those who are unhoused, intensive case management to serve higher need individuals, inpatient hospitalization for those in need of immediate stabilization, and substance use treatment to support those maintaining sobriety,” Mattila said. “Entering into contracts with multiple counselors with different specialties would enable court participants to access individualized and appropriate treatment, and partnerships with mental health providers would allow us to expand the services we can offer to support individuals with higher intensive case management needs and increase the efficiency of the referral process into the court.”

The fifth contract, for transitional housing, is with Horton House. This contract will enable the mental health court to cover the cost of sober living at $535 per month for men who are in need of sober living and transitional housing. There is no lease or deposit. Urine analysis is administered by the housing managers who are in-home 24/7. Similar to the other contracts, this would give the mental health court the ability to set up a referral flow and agreement the county will pay for house services for individuals who meet criteria for the court, but do not have stable housing.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Walt Smith said he liked that one of the contracts provides the opportunity for transitional housing.

“I think that is such a key that we don’t necessarily address with just direct counseling; it’s the environmental change that those individuals need,” Smith said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said she was amazed at where the mental health court program is.

“We’ve been wanting to create something like this for a very long time, and I’m just really amazed at where we are already,” Ingalsbe said. “I think it's much more than the equipment that is needed. It’s providing the services that so many of our residents have been lacking for such a long time, and it’s just great to know that we have such caring people that want to help these individuals.”

The Hays County Commissioners Court will meet again at 9 a.m. on April 11 at the Hays County Historic Courthouse.