Rare collaboration in Kendall County working to improve children’s mental health

BOERNE, Texas – The numbers on children’s mental health across the country are disheartening.

The Centers for Disease Control reports from 2009 to 2021 that high school students who experience “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” have risen from 26% to 44%, the highest level on record.

Mental health is something Kendall County and Boerne take seriously. Both the county and the city are expected to double in size by 2030.

While this growth is exciting, it can also exacerbate community issues such as access to mental health.

Bryce Boddie has seen COVID and shootings like Uvalde’s add more stress.

“I don’t blame the kids for feeling sad and anxious because ‘What are we doing? What’s going to happen to us?’ Boddie said.

Boddie is the father of two teenage daughters, but he is also a councilor for Boerne District 4 and a social worker for the non-profit organization Hill Country Family Services (HCFS).

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He’s seen his kids struggle like many others, but Boddie remains positive because of a rare thing happening in his community.

It’s called the Kendall County Behavioral Health Collaborative, a mental health coalition that started a few years ago with a focus on children.

“We are protecting Kendall County with equitable access for our children to see a psychiatrist, a counselor, to take medication if needed, to have adequate resources in their schools, to have their parents taught about positive parenting,” a said Staci Almager, CEO of HCFS, which oversees the collaborative.

Almager explained that the nonprofit, education, healthcare, law enforcement and corporate sectors are all involved.

“We meet regularly, and because you have so many people who don’t work together regularly, all of a sudden you have 14 to 25 different goals at any given time,” she said.

They track and measure their results and continually set new goals.

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“We are currently working on mental health first aid training so that members of our community can come to our schools to provide this,” Almager said.

The Kendall County Sheriff’s Office and the Boerne Police Department are doing mental health training and they’re even doing the same at the jail.

“We have two amazing mental health workers as well as a mental health dog that we work with and work with on a daily basis. We have a mental health worker for the town of Boerne,” Almager said.

She explained that mental health workers are intermediaries between law enforcement and the community, which can defuse 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 to receive care.

“Because we have nowhere to go. We don’t have a homeless center, we don’t have an emergency detention center yet,” Almager said.

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Boddie is thrilled to see so much attention given to mental health needs in the independent school districts of Boerne and Comfort.

“I think our student enrollment last year was 10,000 students. BISD covers all of Kendall County, up to northern Bexar County, and these teachers, counselors and nurses do not have the capacity to meet these needs during the day,” he said.

Boddie already sees the whole collaborative effort to de-stigmatize mental health and seek help.

“Asking for help is fine. It’s OK and it’s important to do so,” he said.

Almager and its partners hope the collaboration will become a model for other counties.

She invites other organizations or municipalities to contact her if they wish to know more.

For more information, you can email [email protected] or call 830-249-8643.

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