County works on mental health grant

Young County officials have scaled down a plan to provide mobile mental health services to residents to qualify for a $400,000 state grant after an initial effort to fund a $1.6 million, two-year program came to naught.

The County initially envisioned creating teams consisting of a mental health-trained peace officer, a mental health worker and a nurse or emergency medical technician to respond to crises involving mentally ill individuals, and to provide in-home continuing care for residents needing mental health support. The proposal was not eligible for a grant from $30-million set aside by the Texas Legislature last year for mental health care for families because the program excluded funding law enforcement, officials said.

The reimagined program would add two nurses to the Young County Jail staff to respond to mental health crises in the field, and would access mental health professionals via iPads, County Judge Win Graham said.

The addition of two nurses will streamline the crisis evaluation process and allow for immediate psychiatric first aid in all areas of the County and cities and this jail, the grant application said. There is currently one nurse on the jail staff, and the addition of two nurses will allow for roundthe- clock access to care, the application said.

The grant also would fund two vehicles that would be “strategically placed” in the county to allow nurses and other members of the team to quickly respond to an incident, the application said.

It also would fund descalation and crisis training for 24 sworn officers, 20 jailers, nine dispatchers, three nurses and one school resource officer at in the cities of Graham and Olney and Young County.

Peace officers would be exposed to “real-world situations” in quarterly classroom exercises that would allow them “to make mistakes before encountering a life-or-death situation when words and actions matter most,” the application said.

“The additional training in crisis intervention will provide an advanced knowledge in identifying an individual in crisis, response techniques and de-escalation tactics for every person working in the sheriff ’s office, including dispatchers who may be the first line of prevention for a person in crisis,” the application said.

Between January 2023 and May 2024, the Young County Sheriff ’s Department responded to 33 mental health calls, eight suicides, and 59 suicidal subject calls, Sheriff Travis Babcock wrote in the grant application.

In January, a Young County jail inmate committed suicide and the following month, an officer was attacked with a knife while responding to a mental health call. The Olney Police Department reported at least three deaths in the past three years due to mental illness- related crises and the unavailability of mental health services in the County.

“The Young County Sheriff ’s Department finds it unacceptable for any death to occur, especially those that could have possibly been prevented with further training,” Sheriff Babcock wrote.

All County law enforcement agencies will participate in the training so that “when we have a crisis, trained peace officers will go in and make sure the situation is safe,” Judge Graham said. A social worker can be brought in via iPad to determine whether the individual should be brought to a hospital or mental health care facility or detained via emergency court order, he said.

The County turned in the grant application on May 27 and will receive an answer in the coming months, Judge Graham said.