Rep. Biedermann Brings Sheriff, School District and Counselor Together to Give Testimony at Mental Health Committee Hearing
October 2, 2018
Meeting Behavioral Health Needs for Criminal Justice and Community Mental Health programs will remain among Representative Biedermann’s priorities in the 86th Legislative Session. For two days last week in Austin, the County Affairs Committee held hearings to listen to testimony regarding these topics. Three constituents from District 73 were welcomed to present their expertise and solutions through testimony.
Al Auxier, Kendall County Sheriff, addressed the serious behavioral issues in our jails and the deep need for community engagement to support programs that will serve as a diversion for individuals struggling with mental health. Sheriff Auxier presented his desire to see continued funding for Telepsychiatry, a tool that has proven to be valuable for both identifying and responding to mental needs of inmates, especially in smaller or more rural areas, such as Kendall County. His point was emphasized as he shared individual success stories that demonstrate his confidence in the programs and tools being developed. “It is imperative that we strengthen resolve within the community to become educated and involved in solutions to these issues that are having a grave impact on our communities. It can no longer be neglected.” said Sheriff Auxier.
Dr. Holly Robles, Boerne ISD’s Coordinator for Affective Learning, described her intimate work as a professional to execute the details of many of the bills that the legislature has passed over the span of her 26 year career. Now with Boerne ISD, she has focused on implementing a suicide program that includes Gatekeeper training for students and suicide prevention training for teachers and counselors. This training begins with substance abuse prevention and social-emotional learning at the early elementary level and is reinforced as students’ progress through the grade levels, equipping both staff and students to identify signs of early mental health needs and instructing them on the resources available when someone needs help. Dr. Robles also partnered with Texas Suicide Prevention Council to rewrite their Texas Suicide Safer Schools Plan and that plan has been adopted by TEA and the Texas School Safety Center as the ‘model plan’ for suicide prevention. Dr. Robles also expressed her desire to see school districts across Texas create a pathway for an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) to work side-by-side with school counselors or authority to have mental health counselors and additional funding from the legislature for both LPCs and school counselors. Dr. Robles expanded the concept, explaining, “that school counselors can present social-emotional learning curriculum, while LPC’s can work with the most at-risk students that are in crisis or are traumatized. Referring students to counseling outside of school is difficult due to missed school days and cost. Providing an option for school counselors to assess students at risk of harm to others while also assessing for risk of suicide is a natural fit while doing a risk assessment.”
Starlite Recovery Center’s Dawn Elder, presented the need to become, “solution oriented and proactive in order to combat the health crisis of mental health and substance use disorder by allowing law enforcement the freedom to address matters of justice.” Ms. Elder proposed the need for a ‘Systems of Care Coordinator’ in our counties, stating, “This is a position that can assist in determining the appropriate needs for assessment and containment, as well as, recruit the right resources for those needs from both the private and public sector.”
“I want to thank Chairman Garnet Coleman for inviting Sheriff Al Auxier, Dr. Holly Robles, and Dawn Elder, to share their testimonies on the impact of these issues within our community. I am honored to have three constituents from my district giving public testimony to our County Affairs Committee. I will steadfastly pursue solutions for access to care, funding for school counseling, safety, state and county grant programs, training law enforcement officers and resources that will help to educate our communities and make meaningful progress on these issues.” — State Representative Kyle Biedermann