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Education

Mental Health Collaborative Expands Into Harlandale, Edgewood School Districts

One of the children's therapy rooms at South San ISD's mental health center, which opened Nov. 15, 2019.
Camille Phillips
/
Texas Public Radio
One of the children's therapy rooms at South San ISD's mental health center, which opened Nov. 15, 2019.

The six community agencies that banded together last year to provide mental health services to the South San Antonio Independent School District are expanding into Harlandale and Edgewood.

The agencies started moving into Harlandale’s new mental health center this week. Edgewood’s center is expected to open in mid-November.

Like South San, Harlandale and Edgewood are in something of a mental health care desert, with most licensed professionals and medical centers located downtown or on the North Side.

“All of them came to us because they saw such a huge need,” said Talli Dolge, CEO of Jewish Family Service, adding that those needs have increased exponentially since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“For a lot of people, the unknown equals anxiety,” Dolge said. “A lot of people right now are feeling not just the mental effects, but the physical effects of anxiety (like insomnia, back pain and headaches).”

Dolge said Harlandale and Edgewood have more counselors and social workers on staff than South San, which makes it easier for Jewish Family Service and the other agencies in the collaborative to support the schools.

“South San has one full-time social worker. That's it in the whole district for 9,000 kids. At Harlandale, however, they have 15 social workers in the district, so we were able to come in and supplement some of the work that they could not be doing, but we are also utilizing their internal team to build this,” Dolge said.

“Edgewood has an incredible, robust counseling and social work department,” she added. “But also, at the same time, the comprehensive services that we do provide, they would not be able to provide. School counselors don't have the capacity, because they do so much, to give the mental health counseling.”

Harlandale student support services director Nadine Wolfe said the partnership with the collaborative builds on existing relationships with four of the six agencies in the partnership — increasing the district’s capacity to provide one-on-one counseling and adding expert support for drug and alcohol addiction.

“Communities in Schools and Children's Bereavement Center, several of them already do groups within our district, but usually either at a campus or they'd have to find a location to meet with them,” Wolfe said. “Now, they will actually have a space to be able to set appointments and meet their needs so much easier.”

Harlandale’s center, located at the corner of South Flores and March Avenue, will have a full-time drug and alcohol addiction counselor, plus individual counseling, family therapy and psychiatric testing.

Services with the collaborative agencies are free of charge to students and their families and for district staff.

Dolge said having dedicated, expert staff from multiple agencies located in the district lets students be quickly assessed and referred to the right agency for the help they need.

Wolfe said Harlandale also has a grant with UT Health to provide telemedicine with a psychiatrist at the UT Health Science Center, enabling students to get tested and prescribed medicine without having to leave the district.

“It makes a world of difference, because a lot of times when families are referred to other services that are outside of the school district or immediate area, say if they have to go over to the Medical Center, a lot of times they lack transportation,” Wolfe said.

South San

Dolge said the collaborative’s reach in the South San district went much further than expected, serving more than 1,500 people in its first year.

“Some of our organizations had to make sure that we brought in a couple more people because we didn't think we didn't think it would expand so quickly,” Dolge said.

She credits the student advocates who brought the collaborative to the district for encouraging students and families to take advantage of their services.

“The kids are breaking down the barriers and the stigmas by saying, ‘Hey, we all need this at one point or another,’” Dolge said.

Funding

Dolge said the collaborative was able to bring in more staff to South San and expand into Harlandale and Edgewood through a combination of donations and grants, including $130,000 from the H.E. Butt Foundation, $85,000 from Spurs Gives and $50,000 from Bexar County.