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County mental wellness center in the works

By Megan Wehring

HAYS COUNTY — Addressing the area’s mental health needs is Hays County’s goal as officials are working to create a facility where residents can receive proper care. 

Over three million Texas adults are living with a mental illness, according to Mental Health Texas, and 60% of adults who needed treatment in the last year did not receive any. In Hays County alone, Hill Country Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Centers (HCMHDDC) serves 1,000 people per month — the county makes up 60% of the organization’s resources. 

“Hays County is one of our fastest-growing areas [that we serve],” said Landon Sturdivant, HCMHDDC’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, “just like the population of Hays County growing faster than most parts of the country.”

HCMHDDC is one of the organizations collaborating with Hays County to address the need for mental health care. The county is currently in the process of finding a vendor to conduct a Needs Assessment, which will help county officials figure out the best way to serve its residents.

“My ultimate goal is to create a facility or several small facilities, whatever the assessment decides that is most useful for us as a community,” said Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra, “that will help destigmatize mental care. That’s why I’ve even taken the name and changed it from mental health hospital to mental wellness center with education and research tied to it, so we can incorporate Austin Community College (ACC) and Texas State University. [We can] use that research component to facilitate, support and also capture more dollars to run it in the most holistic, state-of-the-art way that our community deserves.”

Hays County will use federal COVID-19 funds, grand opportunities and private donors to fund the project, Becerra explained, and the county plans to get the state to permanently help fund it through legislation. 

But conclusively, the county needs the community’s support. 

“Without the community’s support and without them engaging in this process,” Becerra told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch, “I don’t have the buy-in from the community to pull it off. I need the community to clamor, and continue to clamor that the need is real, because the need is real so that we can actually bring it to light.”

About Author

Megan Navarro (formerly Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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