BOERNE, Texas – Childhood mental health numbers across the country are disheartening.
The Centers for Disease Control reports from 2009 to 2021 high-school students who feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26% to 44%, the highest level ever recorded.
Mental health is something Kendall County and Boerne are taking seriously. The county and city are both expected to double in size by 2030.
While that growth is exciting, it can also exacerbate community issues like mental health access.
Bryce Boddie has seen COVID and shootings like the one in Uvalde adding on more stress.
“I don’t blame kids for feeling sad and anxious because ‘What are we doing? What’s going to happen to us?’” Boddie said.
Boddie is a dad of two teen daughters, but he’s also Boerne’s District 4 City Councilman and a social worker for the crisis response nonprofit Hill Country Family Services (HCFS).
He’s seen his kids struggle the way many others have, but Boddie is staying positive because of a rare thing that’s happening in his community.
It’s called the Kendall County Behavioral Health Collaborative, a mental health coalition that began a couple years ago with a focus on kids.
“We’re future-proofing Kendall County with equitable access for our children to see a psychiatrist, a counselor, having medication if necessary, having the adequate resources inside their schools, having their parents taught positive parenting,” said Staci Almager, CEO of HCFS, which is overseeing the collaborative.
Almager explained that the nonprofit, education, healthcare, law enforcement and business sectors are all involved.
“We meet regularly, and because you have so many people who don’t work together regularly, all of the sudden you have 14 to 25 different lenses at any given time,” she said.
They’re tracking and measuring their outcomes and continuously setting new goals.
“We’re now working on mental health first-aid training for individuals in our community to be able to go into our schools to provide that,” Almager said.
The Kendall County Sheriff’s Office and Boerne Police Department are in the middle of doing mental health training and they’re even doing the same thing at the jail.
“We have two incredible mental health officers as well as a mental health dog who we work with and partner with on a daily basis. We have a mental health officer for the city of Boerne,” Almager said.
She explained that the mental health officers are intermediaries between law enforcement and the community, which can de-escalate emergencies and keep people from ending up in jail or the emergency room.
The goal is to meet mental health needs within their community without people having to travel to other areas for care.
“Because we don’t have anywhere for people to go. We don’t have a homeless center, we don’t have an emergency detention center yet,” Almager said.
Boddie is thrilled to see so much attention being paid to the mental health needs within the Boerne and Comfort independent school districts.
“I think our student enrollment this past year was 10,000 students. BISD covers all of Kendall County, all the way down to north Bexar County, and those teachers and counselors and the nurses, they don’t have the capacity to meet those needs during the day,” he said.
Boddie already sees the entire collaborative effort de-stigmatizing mental health and seeking help.
“Asking for help is OK. That’s OK to do and it’s important to do,” he said.
Almager and her partners hope the collaboration will become a model for other counties.
She invites other organizations or municipalities to contact her if they’re interested in learning more.
For more information, you can send an email to email@example.com or call 830-249-8643.