Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct month the analysis was finalized.

Health care and government leaders in Montgomery County finalized a 2022 analysis studying behavioral health needs in the community in February. The study's main task was to identify the most essential issues where the county needs to make progress in behavioral health.

Judge Wayne Mack, founder of the task force for the study, said the analysis was essential in creating an outline for navigating the county's behavioral health resources against its future needs.

“The need in our community is tremendous,” he said. “But what gives me hope is that even though the need is very daunting, the gap analysis shows us that there is a path for a healthier outcome for our entire community.”

According to the analysis, the three most prevalent behavioral health issues in Montgomery County consist of significant mental health challenges among children and adolescents, suicide prevention among children and adolescents, and co-occurring substance use and mental health challenges.

The National Alliance on Mental Health Illnesses reported in 2021 that over 3.3 million adults in Texas had a mental health condition; 3,390 died by suicide; and 17 million adults experienced both mental illness and a substance abuse disorder at the same time.

“You can see the signs with physical ailments, but being able to recognize the symptoms of a mental health issue is critical,” Mack said. “I believe every suicide is preventable if the right systems are in place.”

By studying the analysis results, Mack said partners in Montgomery County were able to create four action groups to begin addressing those significant concerns.

The four groups consist of law enforcement and treatment, community awareness and education, peer support, and housing. The action groups consist of volunteers ranging from city leaders and health care experts to nonprofit representatives and citizens.

“The key is what we’ve known from the beginning: collaboration,” Mack said. “It has to be a community response. There is a will here to help our community. We just need to put it into action.”

Tri-County Behavioral Health was also a partner in the study. Tri-County is a unit of local government sponsored by Montgomery County to help serve those with mental health issues.

Executive Director Evan Roberson said the data from the study will help behavioral health clinics, such as Tri-County, draw in new funds.

“With these findings, we can apply for grants and say, ‘This is important in Montgomery County,’” he said. “‘This is where we want to see our dollars focused.’”

Now that the needs of the county are transparent, Roberson said Tri-County can begin to help create solutions.

“We opened a new clinic in Porter last year that serves only kids,” he said. “We’re in six schools now, and we’re targeting to get into two more this year. On the substance abuse side, right now, we are doing studies on what might be next with substance abuse treatment.”

Tri-County also recently reopened the Crisis Stabilization Unit in Conroe on June 18. According to a news release June 9, the CSU provides short-term residential treatment for up to 16 adults in a secure and protected treatment environment.

Roberson said reopening the crisis unit was an important step in the right direction to bringing accessible behavioral health resources to Montgomery County.

“It’s going to take all of us,” he said. “We’re here as a significant provider of mental health services ... but we are just a provider. We can’t do it all. It’s going to take all the different organizations coming together to move the needle on this issue.”

The full results of the gap analysis study are available at www.communityhelp.org.