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Annual vacations are time well spent

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 18 August 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1260

Williamson Co. Commissioner Terry Cook: Annual vacations are time well spent (statesman.com)

The view of people enjoying Carolina Beach in North Carolina as Commissioner Cook and her sister relaxed and read good books.

Fresh back from my annual one-week vacation to a North Carolina beach just in time to be consumed by our annual budget planning and voting. 

Roll back the clock. I lounged with feet in the water. The melodic, recurrent, gentle pounding of the surf drowning out all other sounds just clears your head and soothes the spirit. I got a week clear of Atlantic storms with mild breezes, lower temperatures (91° rather than 104°) and no public information requests. 

I grew up near the coast and miss the ocean and its mysteries terribly. The rhythm of the wave action as each rushes the shore to deposit its slim edge of foam lulls one into such relaxation unknown to those who vacation elsewhere – especially not staycations where all you seem to do is repeat the home-routines in your life and just look at all the work needed done around your home.

What happens when the unexpected does?

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 21 July 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1777

Commissioner Cook, right, hands out water bottle cases along with two other volunteers shown at the Kelly-Reeves  Athletic Field to residents during a boil water notice issued on Feb. 5 by Austin Water.

In an episode of “I Love Lucy”, how did Lucy respond in the chocolate factory when the chocolates came faster than she could box them? She gained 20 pounds.

Seldom does life follow our plans, hence contingency planning.

How we react shows our character and perhaps its flaws. Those who weather those changes tend to show creativity and resilience, not resignation and despair.

In my second year as commissioner in 2018, I participated in a “table-top disaster exercise.” This is a scripted disaster with all the normal players participating as though in their official roles. In this case, the scenario was a major 5K race planned in Twin

Commissioner Cook Announces Texas Housing Assistance Line

Information from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission

  • 13 July 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1356

On July 7, The Health and Human Services Commission announced the launch of the Texas Housing Assistance Line at 1-855-802-0014.Adobe Stock Free Vectors Icon of house with blue roof, orange door and white structure ttps://www.bing.com/images/

This resource is available statewide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help people facing housing instability or homelessness, with a focus on people dealing with mental health or substance use issues.

Trained consultants will refer callers to local housing resources; crisis services; local mental and behavioral health authorities; Outreach, Screening, Assessment, and Referral programs; and 2-1-1 as appropriate.

For additional housing information, log onto DFPS - Housing Program (state.tx.us)

Dealing with mental health crises

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 16 June 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1785

Photo of people gathered at Bluebonnet Trails' Open House of their new youth respite center with logos of their partners surrounding the photo.Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook: Dealing with mental health crises (statesman.com)

With Williamson County's former Mobile Outreach Team transitioning to support the city of Round Rock residents only, many have asked what the county is doing to provide services. We are continuing and expanding our partnership with Bluebonnet Trails, our local mental health authority and community center for Region 5, serving eight counties including Williamson. Its focus is to provide services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, serious mental illness and substance use disorders.

While the media and politicos are blaming mental health crises for the recent shootings, many of those involved have no indication of a mental health crisis but are clearly not stable individuals. Williamson County seeks to connect our citizens in crisis with the most appropriate treatment when possible.

Bluebonnet Trails’ Mobile Crisis Outreach Team

The MCOT teams have previously been working in tandem with the county’s MOT group of social workers to provide on-site services and responses to mental health crises within the county, including at the schools. This group is now doing crisis assessments covering all but the city of Round Rock in this effort. Adults or children may be taken to respite centers or referred for case workers and programs with Bluebonnet staff.

Spotlight on transformative justice

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 19 May 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 1851

Williamson County Commissioner Cook: Spotlight on transformative justice (statesman.com)

In 2018, a program began in Williamson County diverting young adults ages 17 to 24 accused of nonviolent felonies, such as drug charges, from the traditional criminal justice system to services that address their development needs and help them make wise decisions to develop a strong foundation for adulthood.

Judge Stacey Mathews of the 277th District Court presides over the Transformative Justice Program, based on the model of stakeholder and community partnerships. The TJ program team includes court staff, prosecutors from the Williamson County’s district attorney’s office, members of the defense bar and county's Juvenile Services staff.  The county aggressively seeks grant-funding for such programs to offset costs and reduce the burden on the taxpayer. The Commissioners Court proudly partners with the Texas Indigent Defense Commission and the Texas Bar Foundation to help us fund this important program.

Does a community-based program led by decision-making teams improve emerging adults’ physical and mental health and reduce recidivism compared to the current criminal justice system? I interviewed two alums of this program. I changed their real names to protect their identities.

“Laura” was born into an unstable environment in a Michigan inner-city home. Her father left the family after fathering four children in as many years. Mom, who drank heavily, moved with her three kids to a trailer home in Georgetown, leaving one son behind. When Laura was 9, CPS removed the kids from the home. She, along with the older and younger brother, were placed in a neighborhood home for two weeks and ultimately moved to a group home of strangers. While there, Laura’s mom gave up her parental rights. Later, a foster family with big hearts adopted the three children. 

Laura thrived in her first two years of high school, joining ROTC, the Color Guard and becoming active in community service. However, her fragile life foundation began crumbling during her junior year, and she lost interest in the programs she had so enjoyed. Lacking friends outside of her prior groups, she drifted. In her words, “everything became meaningless.” Then her new parents divorced, and she moved again with her adoptive dad.

She started associating with troubled kids and began making poor decisions. She was arrested in Leander with a bag containing drugs and paraphernalia (the result of a group purchase) on a felony charge to the terror of her younger brother who witnessed her being handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle.

At the jail, J.R. Hancock, a defense attorney for the Transformative Justice Program and whose position is partially funded by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission grant, contacted Laura about the new program. Unbeknownst to her, Hancock was part of Laura’s adoption legal team. Recognizing the value of joining this program, Laura agreed to become one of its early clients. The next day Laura walked out of jail to her adoptive dad and her two siblings with a business card<


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