In December the coalition formed five subcommittees—one to establish the coalition’s mission, goals and best practices; one to focus on local mental health data collection and tracking; a committee to identify existing and potential prevention and treatment services; a community awareness committee; and a committee in which members will focus on grant writing to secure funding for mental health resources.
Since then, the coalition—which is made up of more than 100 local stakeholders—has set its mission to “foster collaboration between local providers of mental health services for children and youth” and to “raise awareness of and provide education on mental health issues affecting young people.” The mission also states the coalition will aim to “coordinate mental health prevention and intervention efforts.”
The coalition applied for a grant in April from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Grant for Expansion and Sustainability of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children with Serious Emotional Disturbances—also known as the System of Care Expansion and Sustainability Grant—if awarded, would go toward the creation of a school-based mental health care clinic in San Marcos CISD.
“We weren’t expecting to put together a grant this early in the coalition, but the grant is really designed for communities like ours that have these supports in place and that are working toward these goals,” said Anne Halsey, a coalition member and chairwoman of the San Marcos Commission on Children and Youth. “So we figured it seemed like a long shot, but it really helped us to coalesce around some of the ideas that we would like to see.”
Halsey, who is also a SMCISD trustee, said if the district is awarded the grant, the coalition hopes to create a community resource center for mental health.
“So the idea is really that we would be flipping the model of how mental health care services are provided to youth,” she said. “Rather than a student having to be referred out to a clinic that is somewhere else and a clinic that may or may not also treat adults, we’re trying to reduce the number of barriers for kids to be able to seek care and resources when they need them.”
The center would be staffed by therapists in the community, Texas State University students who are in training to become mental health professionals, as well as school counselors, Halsey said.
Additionally, the coalition envisions it would use the grant to potentially establish an emergency laundry and food bank facility for students in need. Halsey said she hopes the center would also include support groups for parents and children struggling with mental health issues.
Teresa Thompson, clinical director of Hill Country Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Centers, said SMCISD has taken a lead on pursuing the grant and she looks forward to what it could offer the community if awarded.
Thompson said if the mental health clinic is established in the case that the grant is awarded to SMCISD, it would potentially make referrals to the Scheib Center’s Youth Crisis Respite Center in San Marcos. The center offers a place for youth in behavioral crisis to stay for 24 to 72 hours and is staffed full time with social workers and therapists.
“There’s certainly work that needs to be done in San Marcos,” Halsey said. “There are always funding issues and logistical issues, but I feel like we have a real sense of urgency around this and people who are really committed to the cause. I’ve been really pleased with the response that we’ve received from people across the community and the willingness of people to participate. And I think that that’s a great marker of how much people in this community care about our young people.”