Dealing with Mental Health Crises

With the transition from the former Williamson County Mobile Outreach Team to only supporting residents of the City of Round Rock, many have asked what the county is doing to provide services. We are continuing and expanding our partnership with Bluebonnet Trails, our local mental health authority and community center for Region 5, serving eight counties including Williamson. Its goal is to provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, serious mental illness and substance use disorders.

While the media and politicians blame mental health crises for recent shootings, many of those involved have no indication of a mental health crisis, but are clearly not stable individuals. Williamson County seeks to connect our citizens in crisis with the most appropriate treatment when possible.

Bluebonnet Trails Mobile Crisis Awareness Team

MCOT teams previously worked in tandem with the county’s MOT social worker group to provide on-site services and mental health crisis responses across the county, including in schools. This group is now doing crisis assessments covering all but the town of Round Rock in this effort. Adults or children may be taken to respite centers or referred to social workers and programs with Bluebonnet staff.

Support for young people

With financial assistance from Williamson County and using $8.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, Bluebonnet Trails is launching its all-new Youth Therapeutic Respite Program for children and teens ages 5 to 17 years old. The respite center serves youth for as little as a few hours or as long as 30 days at its Round Rock facility.

Terry Cook

Participants receive comprehensive care, including innovative therapies, care coordination, family partner services, case management, psychiatric assessment, medication management and more.

The establishment opened on June 1

Georgetown Rock Springs

Williamson County provided partial support of $3 million using ARPA funding to Bluebonnet Trails to partner with Rock Springs, a private facility for youth and adults with mental health and addictions issues, to build a wing offering 24 additional beds to the existing 72-bed facility for youth crisis care. Despite concerns and supply chain delays, officials hope to be open by the end of December. Additional funding of $1.3 million from ARPA is intended to support the continued operation of this expanded service.

Law enforcement support

The Sheriff’s Office has long provided a remote psychiatrist available for telemedicine or in-person calls to the jail. In January, the Court of Commissioners voted to fund a full-time associate physician with experience in psychiatric care to support the prison’s correctional team. This PA would be able to reduce the time and cost to perform physical and mental assessments and introduce medication, if necessary, to stabilize the inmate, reduce stress for everyone, and expedite the trial for the individual.

Sheriff Mike Gleason reconstituted the Crisis Response Team that had been disbanded by the previous administration. These are law enforcement officers who have been specially trained to deal effectively with people in mental health crisis. This team reduces the number of people taken to the emergency room or to jail through diversion services provided by Bluebonnet Community Services, Georgetown Behavioral or Rock Springs. They are the only team that can take away an individual’s rights and force involuntary commitments outside of the legal system – a decision not taken lightly.

Support for Adults in the Justice System

Justice-based care coordination for detainees has been instituted for detainees and others involved in the courts for medical, social and psychiatric care. The county added a Jail Care Coordinator and a Court Care Coordinator to reduce the time between the individual’s incarceration in jail and their first court hearing. Additionally, they both facilitate the connection of the individual with community support for their condition, which reduces recidivism in prison. Our 26th District Court headed by Judge Donna King is holding a special mental health file.

Support for adults in crisis

The Lott Building in the San Gabriel Park area has undergone extensive renovations to become a 23-hour drop-off center for adults in crisis. In partnership with the Williamson County Sheriff‘s Office and the CIT, adults in crisis can be brought to this drop-in center for medical and psychological evaluation. Sixteen beds are available along with a large open room for board games, rest and television, as the most appropriate level of care is determined by the team of 27 mental health and primary care professionals who support this facility 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Individuals are transferred to the determined level of care in a deliberate and safe manner. The renovation was provided with funding from the CARES Act. Bluebonnet Trails staff oversee this operation.

Terry Cook is county commissioner for Precinct 1, which includes most of Round Rock, most of Austin in Williamson County, and part of southern Cedar Park.

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