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Dealing with mental health crises

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 16 June 2022
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2483

Support for youths

With financial assistance from Williamson County, using $8.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, Bluebonnet Trails is starting its brand-new youth therapeutic respite program that serves children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17. This 16-bed, 24-hour respite center serves youths for as short as a few hours or as long as 30 days in its Round Rock facility.

Participants receive wraparound care, including innovative therapies, care coordination, family partner services, case management, psychiatric evaluation, medication management and more.

The facility opened June 1.

Rock Springs of Georgetown

Williamson County provided $3 million partial construction support using ARPA funding to Bluebonnet Trails for partnering with Rock Springs, a private facility for youths and adults with mental health and addiction challenges, to build a wing providing an additional 24 beds to the existing 72-bed facility for crisis care of youths. Despite supply-chain worries and delays, officials there are hoping to be open by summer 2023. An additional $1.3 million of ARPA funding is earmarked to support on-going operation of this expanded service.

Support for law enforcement

The sheriff’s office has long provided a remote psychiatrist available for telemedicine or in-person calls in the jail. In January, the Commissioners Court voted to fund a full-time physician associate with psychiatric care experience to support the corrections team in the jail. This PA would be able to reduce time and costs to accomplish physical and mental evaluations and introduce medications, if needed, to stabilize the inmate, reducing stress for everyone and speeding up court for the individual.

Sheriff Mike Gleason reconstituted the Crisis Intervention Team that had been disbanded by the previous administration. These are law enforcement officers with special training for effectively dealing with people in a mental health crisis. When possible, the lone MOT member remaining with the county joins in CIT responses. This team reduces the number of people taken to an emergency room or into the jail through diversion services provided by Bluebonnet Community Services, Georgetown Behavioral or Rock Springs. This is the one team that can remove an individual’s rights and force involuntary commitments outside of the court system – a move that is not taken lightly.

Support for adults in court system

Justice-based care coordination for inmates has been instituted for inmates and other court-involved people for medical, social and psychiatric care. The county added a jail-based care coordinator and one court-based care coordinator to reduce time between the individual being booked into the jail and their initial court hearing. Additionally, they both facilitate connecting the individual with community support for their condition, which reduces recidivism in the jail. Our 26th District Court under Judge Donna King conducts a special mental health docket.

Support for adults in crisis

The Lott Building in the San Gabriel Park area has gone through major renovations to become a 23-hour drop-off center for adults in crisis. In partnership with the Williamson County sheriff’s office and the CIT, adults in crisis may be brought into this drop-off center to be medically and psychologically evaluated. Sixteen beds are available as well as a large, open room for board games, resting and TV viewing as the most appropriate level of care is determined by the team of 27 mental health and primary care professionals supporting this facility 24/7. Individuals are transitioned to the determined level of care in a deliberate and safe manner. The renovation was provided through CARES Act funding. Bluebonnet Trails personnel oversee this operation.

911 dispatch

For anyone in crisis, Williamson County’s dispatch now offers a mental health crisis option. The caller is connected to a mental health specialist from Bluebonnet to evaluate the situation, which might result in the sheriff’s CIT member/social worker being sent if the person in crisis is suspected of possibly harming themselves or others (~5% of the calls), or the MCOT from Bluebonnet being sent for in-person evaluation (~40% of the calls), or an appointment is made with a caseworker at Bluebonnet or another agency to support the person (~55% of the calls). This service, of course, is for a person of any age but is not intended to be a counseling call.

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