Bexar County helps expand free mental wellness program into more school districts

The Commissioners Court approved $4.75 million in funding to increase mental health services

SAN ANTONIO – It was a call for help by a student in South San ISD more than two years ago.

Marc Mendiola said their group started talking about the need for mental health and the lack of resources available to them, then took those concerns to the school district.

“It’s hard for us to really actually ask for that help,” he says about youth feeling like anyone cares or will listen. “People in our culture as a Hispanic culture, sometimes it is seen as like a weakness to have to be sad or to be unhappy. And they think that’s just an emotion you control,” he explained about the stigma in his culture.

The group’s cries were answered and were multiplied with help for students in other districts.

The San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative was created with the help of six non-profits, to provide free counseling and wrap around services for South San Antonio, Harlandale, and Edgewood ISD’s.

Partner agencies are Jewish Family Service of San Antonio, Family Services Association, Clarity Child Guidance Center, Rise Recovery, Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas and Communities in Schools of San Antoni.

Last week, the Bexar County Commissioners Court approved $4.75 million in funding for five years to increase their services to two additional school districts. Southwest and Somerset districts are likely to be those districts once things are finalized.

Talli Dolge, CEO of Jewish Family Service, said this is a dream come true because communities and leaders are putting mental health in the forefront for these students.

“At this point, this is going to be the piece of the mental health check that we were so missing for so many years,” she said. COVID-19 has taken the stigma that prevents some families from speaking up about their needs she said.

The funds will allow each non-profit to hire one additional full-time staff and obtain other curriculum for staff in the schools.

Evita Morin, CEO of Rise Recovery, said she’s grateful the groups were able to respond as a collaborative and provide much needed mental help to communities during the pandemic.

“This standard in expectation that we are all going through something, universalized the need for mental health services and wellness and focus on wellness, whereas before maybe schools would struggle to say they have mental health problems in their schools. They may not want to admit that; every single student and family can admit that this has been a stressful time for them. So it really normalized the conversation.,” Morin said.

But, she said the move by school districts and county leaders to fund mental health for youth now, will really be an investment into their future as adults that cannot be measured.

“The cost savings, of saving a child’s life, of preventing the school to prison pipeline, of helping that child succeed and thrive and graduate is immeasurable,” Morin said.


About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.