County applies for mental health grant

Young County Commissioners made a final push for state funds to create a mobile mental health team that will provide home-based follow-up care for county residents dealing with mental illness. The Commissioners voted unanimously to hire the grant writing firm Strategic Economic Efforts of Wichita Falls to apply for an approximately $600,000 grant to fund the Critical Access- Rapid Response-Evaluation [CARRE] team for a year from $30-million set aside by the Texas Legislature last year for mental health care for families.

The County faced a tight, three-week deadline to complete and submit the grant, County Judge Win Graham said. Strategic Economic Efforts will write the grant and, if successful, will gather data to show the program’s effectiveness, company founder Joe Gambill told the Court.

The County is expecting the CARRE program to reduce contacts between mental health consumers and law enforcement, emergency room visits and jail stays by that population, Olney Police Chief Dan Birbeck said.

The County has been working with the Cities of Graham and Olney to improve mental health services for about 18 months, following the deaths of three Olney residents who were not able to access emergency services at North Texas State Hospital.

Chief Birbeck proposed creating a team consisting of a mental health peace officer, a licensed professional social worker or counselor, and an emergency medical technician or nurse to visit with mental health consumers in their homes to make sure they are following their care plans and have access to medication, counseling, and continuing services. “I’m hoping this turns into a benchmark program that starts going across the state because if we see great results here, other rural communities will want to emulate what we are doing and it could turns into something big,” Chief Birbeck said.

The County and Cities of Graham and Olney have agreed to provide matching funds, if needed. The County has received letters of support for the program from the Young County Sheriff ’s Office, Olney and Graham Independent School Districts, Olney Hamilton Hospital, Graham Regional Medical Center and the cities of Graham, Olney and Newcastle, Judge Graham said.

The County approved a one-year, $24,000 retainer with Strategic Economic Efforts to track the mobile mental health team data in the event of a grant, and to search and apply for an unlimited number of grants for other county agencies and for cities of less than 1,500 population.