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'We meet people where they are in their mental health journey' | Program expands to help students, staff and families in San Antonio and beyond

The holistic approach of providing wraparound services is sparking interest from school districts across Texas and nationwide.

SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative is on the road to expanding services to school districts across the state and nation with the help a new partner.

“We meet people where they are in their mental health journey,” said Tallie Dolge, CEO of San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative and senior vice president of school and community partnerships at Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.

Since 2019, the holistic model of mental health services provided by the Collaborative has aided hundreds of students, staff and families at various Bexar County school districts. Services are funded partly through the school districts, federal grants, local governments, and community foundations.

The nonprofits involved in providing mental wellness services include Jewish Family Service of San Antonio, Family Service Association, Clarity Child Guidance Center, Rise Recovery, and Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas.

The Collaborative’s partnership with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute comes during a time where the need for such mental health services continues to increase.

“We’re at 157% higher referral rate then we have been in ever before over the last three years,” Dolge said.

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute is an independent nonprofit organization specializing in developing policy and program guidance with the goal to create efficient behavioral health services for all Texans.

“The model is what we’re developing as well with Meadows and really looking at what a community-based mental health model means to school districts in the future,” Dolge said.

Collaborative’s efforts kicked off at South San ISD in 2019 and has since expanded to Edgewood and Harlandale ISDs. Judson and SAISD have also signed on to create their own tailored programs.

“For our families to be able to go to somewhere on the north side of town was impossible to get counseling services,” said Ron Flores, lead clinical social worker at South San ISD’s Care Zone.

But now, the majority of families with South San ISD children, can visit the Care Zone at the campus of Athens Elementary School.

Flores said the pandemic prompted a surge in referrals for a variety of mental health challenges, including the effects of losing a family member due to COVID-19, anxiety and stress.

“We have generational families that have been here forever and so us bringing services into their neighborhood makes us a part of that family for them,” Flores said.

Marc Mendiola is one of the students who attended South San ISD and pushed for improved mental health services.

From speaking with Texas lawmakers to coordinating with city leaders to going before the school board, Mendiola and a band of other advocates, stressed the importance of destigmatizing mental health challenges.

“I think in the future, I just want to see more programs open up, more people speaking about mental health and not for it to seem something that’s out of the ordinary or something that seems like a problem,” Mendiola said.

The Collaborative’s model of school-based mental health services has sparked interest from school districts all over the country including Philadelphia.

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