A collaborative team of community leaders with roles that intersect with issues of mental health and substance abuse are working together to identify the community’s needs related to behavioral health and to create an integrated system of services to address those needs. This coordinated effort of cross-sector systems that include healthcare providers, criminal justice, elected County and City officials, the mental health authority and educational institutions, is known as the McLennan County Behavioral Health Leadership Team (BHLT).
Two sub-committee groups have formed from the leadership team—Jail Diversion and Access to Care. The Heart of Texas MHMR and local law enforcement agencies are represented in the jail diversion sub-committee. The jail diversion committee collaborates to develop proposals for better identifying and treating individuals with behavioral health needs, while also preserving public safety and reducing the burden of responding to behavioral health issues on law enforcement. The Access to Care committee includes representatives from a wide range of providers who develop proposals for creating a better aligned system of services for individuals with behavioral health needs.
In September 2016, the McLennan County Commissioners’ Court approved the jail diversion program which was recommended by the Behavioral Health Leadership Team. The program will be housed within the District Attorney’s office and will work to identify individuals who would benefit from mental health services rather than incarceration, and who would not pose a risk to public safety. This program would not only allow community members to get the adequate mental health resources they need, but would reduce the cost of incarceration for the County.
“This program is a testament to the great cooperation found in our community. With partners like McLennan County, the District Attorney’s Office, HOT MHMR and Tarleton State, we are hopeful that this program will get individuals with behavioral health issues the help they need to become better, more productive citizens while at the same time reducing the burden and costs associated with dealing with those issues through the judicial system,” Judge Scott Felton, a member of the Behavioral Health Leadership Team and McLennan County Judge, said.
Members of the Behavioral Health Leadership Team include:
• Scott Felton, McLennan County judge
• Will Jones, McLennan County commissioner
• Kyle Deaver, City of Waco mayor
• Abel Reyna, McLennan County district attorney
• Capt. Ricky Armstrong, McLennan County jail administrator
• Ryan Holt, Waco Police Department assistant chief
• Barbara Tate, Hot Region MHMR executive director
• Tom Thomas, HOT Region MHMR director of adult mental health services
• Dr. Roland Goertz, Family Health Center CEO
• Dr. Jim Morrison, Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center chief medical officer
• Vicky Campbell, Providence Healthcare Network vice president
• Facilitators of BHLT: Tom Stanton (Rapoport Foundation) and Matthew Polk (Prosper Waco)
Coordinated efforts like the McLennan County Behavioral Health Leadership Team address the overall health goals of the Prosper Waco initiative and specifically work to address mental health needs in the Waco community.