Rare Collaborator in Kendall County Working to Better Children’s Mental Health

BOERNE, Texas – Childhood mental health figures across the country are depressing.

The Centers for Disease Control reports from 2009 to 2021, high school students experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness or despair” increased from 26% to 44%, the highest rate ever recorded.

Mental health is something Kendall County and Boerne are taking seriously. The county and 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 the one in Uvalde adding 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 the father of two teenage daughters, but he’s also a Boerne District 4 City Council member and a social worker for the crisis response nonprofit Hill Country Family Services (HCFS).

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He’s seen his kids struggle like so many others, but Boddie is staying 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 securing the future of Kendall County with equal access for our children to see a psychiatrist, a counselor, having medication if needed, having the right resources within their schools, teaching their parents positive parenting ,” said Staci Almager, CEO of HCFS, which is overseeing the collaboration.

Almager explained that the non-profit, education, health, law enforcement and business sectors are all involved.

“We meet regularly, and because you have so many people who don’t work together regularly, suddenly you have 14 to 25 different lenses at any one time,” she said.

They are tracking and measuring their results and constantly setting new goals.

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“We’re now working on mental health first aid training for individuals in our community so they can go into our schools to provide it,” Almager said.

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

“We have two outstanding mental health officers as well as a mental health dog that we work with and collaborate with on a daily basis. We have a mental health officer for the city of Boerne,” Almager said.

She explained that mental health officers are intermediaries between law enforcement and the community who can de-escalate emergencies and prevent 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 have nowhere for people 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 being paid to mental health needs within Boerne and Comfort Independent School Districts.

“I think our student enrollment this year was 10,000 students. BISD covers all of Kendall County, all the way to northern Bexar County, and those teachers and counselors and nurses, they don’t have the capacity to meet those needs during the day,” he said.

Boddie already sees the whole collaborative effort destigmatizing mental health and seeking help.

“It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to do it and it’s important to do it,” he said.

Almager and her partners hope that the cooperation will become a model for other counties.

She invites other organizations or municipalities to contact her if they are interested in learning more.

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

Copyright 2022 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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