Innovative Mental Wellness Program Receives $4.75 Million from Bexar County for Program Expansion in School Districts
San Antonio, Texas (July 14, 2021) – On Tuesday morning, the Bexar County Commissioners Court approved $4.75 million in funding for five years to increase mental wellness services to students, as well as their families, teachers and school staff, through the San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative.
During Commissioners Court, student advocate Marc Mendiola spoke on behalf of his community and their struggle to receive mental health services because of three major issues: Transportation, lack of resources, and language barriers.
“If schools want students to come first, then mental health should definitely come first,” said Mendiola, a 2020 graduate of South San High School and current Texas A&M student. “When students can’t mentally be present in the classroom because of other struggles, then they miss out on engagement. Not because they don’t want to be engaged, but because they have mental setbacks, whether it is a crisis at home or chemical imbalance.”
With the County funding, the Collaborative will be able to expand into more school districts by providing mental wellness counseling and group therapy, as well as a more robust education curriculum and wraparound services, to students and their support systems.
Timing for the approval of the County’s funding coincides with an upcoming announcement about additional support for the mental wellness program. A press conference will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 22 at the Harlandale Care Center, 7026 South Flores St.
The mental wellness program was originally founded in 2019 in response to the South San ISD students’ call for help. It solves a simple problem – how to bring mental health services to youth and their support systems (families and teachers) when transportation is such a big issue for treatment.
The six nonprofits that are part of the collaboration offer free services, including counseling for individuals or groups on issues such as anxiety, trauma, grief, anger management, substance abuse, and so much more. The collaborative also provides crisis intervention, parent education, psychological assessment, as well as teacher and administrator consulting and training.
According to the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, the need for youth mental health services is particularly acute in Bexar County where approximately 130,000 children have behavioral health needs and more than 10,000 children ages 12 to 17 have a substance use disorder.
Talli Dolge, CEO of Jewish Family Service of San Antonio and leader of the Collaborative said that school districts are well positioned to play a key role in addressing childhood mental health concerns, but the school districts often lack funding.
“The six agencies in the Collaborative have the resources and qualified staff members who can provide this service to the school districts,” Dolge said. “Families are more receptive to receiving help when it is logistically easier for them and in a familiar location, such as their child’s school.”
Partner agencies include Jewish Family Service of San Antonio, Family Service Association, Clarity Child Guidance Center, Rise Recovery, Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas and Communities in Schools of San Antonio.
The program currently serves the following school districts: South San, Harlandale and Edgewood. In the 2020-2021 school year, its first full year, the Collaborative reached more than 4,600 people through counseling, case management, education and outreach. The most sought-after reasons for counseling included anxiety/stress, recent family crisis, grief and anger.
With the County funding, Southwest and Somerset school districts will likely be next to receive services from the Collaborative.
“I am overwhelmed with gratitude that our funders are supporting an initiative that is so dear to my heart,” Dolge said. “As someone who struggled with mental health challenges, I never want another child to feel alone and helpless the way I did when I was a teenager.”
About the San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative
The San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative was founded in 2019 by six nonprofits wanting to provide a holistic approach to mental wellness by breaking barriers and bringing services right into the schools. The group currently serves three school districts (South San, Edgewood and Harlandale ISDs) by offering individual and group counseling, psychiatry, education, and more to students, parents, teachers and administrators. Organizations in the Collaborative include Jewish Family Service of San Antonio, Family Service Association, Clarity Child Guidance Center, Rise Recovery, Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas and Communities in School of San Antonio.