The holistic approach to providing end-to-end services is attracting interest from school districts across Texas and across the country.
SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative is on track to expand services to school districts statewide and nationwide with the help of a new partner.
“We meet people where they are on their mental health journey,” said Tallie Dolge, CEO of the San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative and senior vice president of School and Community Partnerships at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.
Since 2019, the holistic model of mental health services provided by the Collaborative has served hundreds of students, staff and families across Bexar County school districts. Services are funded in part by school districts, federal grants, local governments, and community foundations.
Nonprofit organizations involved in providing mental health wellness services include the Jewish Family Service of San Antonio, the Family Service Association, the Clarity Child Guidance Center, Rise Recovery, and the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas.
The Collaborative’s partnership with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute comes at a time when the need for such mental health services continues to grow.
“We have a 157% higher referral rate than at any time in the last three years,” said Dolge.
The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to developing policies and program guidelines with the goal of creating effective behavioral health services for all Texans.
“We’re also developing the model with Meadows and are really looking at what a community-based mental health model means for school districts in the future,” Dolge said.
Collaborative’s efforts began at South San ISD in 2019 and have since expanded to Edgewood and Harlandale ISDs. Judson and SAISD have also committed to creating their own bespoke programs.
“It was impossible for our families to get counseling services anywhere north of the city,” said Ron Flores, senior clinical social worker at the South San ISD Nursing Zone.
But now, the majority of families with South San ISD children can attend the Care Zone on Athens Elementary School’s campus.
Flores said the pandemic has prompted a surge in referrals for a variety of mental health issues, including the impact of losing a family member to COVID-19, anxiety and stress.
“We have generational families that have been here for ages, and when we bring services to their neighborhoods, we become part of that family for them,” Flores said.
Marc Mendiola is one of the students who attended South San ISD and advocated for improved mental health services.
From speaking with Texas lawmakers to coordinating with city leaders to appearing before the school board, Mendiola and a group of other advocates emphasized the importance of destigmatizing mental health issues.
“I think in the future I just want to see more programs, more people talking about mental health, and not for it to seem like something out of the ordinary or something that seems like a problem,” Mendiola said.
The Collaborative’s model for school-based mental health services has attracted the interest of school districts across the country, including Philadelphia.