By Brittany Anderson
A grant for the Buda Public Library is looking to implement a program that will improve the library’s ability to better assist the community with their mental health needs.
During its Feb. 15 meeting, Buda City Council unanimously approved to authorize the city manager to execute an agreement with the St. David’s Foundation for the Libraries for Health program and grant. The information was presented by library director Melinda Hodges.
The foundation created the program in order to better meet the mental health needs of Texas across its five-county service area, including Hays. Through the program, Buda will be provided funding, evidence-based training and be part of the program’s cohort of member libraries to be better prepared to improve access to mental health resources and provide support to residents that need assistance.
Additionally, the grant will provide a mental health layperson who will be a community member trained by a licensed mental health professional to provide assistance to program users in the form of classes, one-on-one sessions, referrals and other services as deemed necessary.
The foundation is offering a $75,000 grant dispersed over fiscal years 2022, 2023 and 2024 to support the efforts.
According to the agenda item report created by the library for council, the library has already established a need for a program like this in the community, and that research done by staff for previous projects has shown that the area’s greatest health needs are related to mental health and access to care.
St. David’s Foundation has also recognized that libraries are already trusted community hubs that assist patrons with information needs, and that this program is a “natural extension” of the work that Buda’s library has done for many years.
“This grant was awarded based on the library’s capacity, willingness and enthusiasm to assist our patrons with fulfilling their mental health needs,” the report said.
Hodges also said that she is looking to speak with other mental health officers in the community to see what kind of non-emergency police services could be offered through the library.
“We do have a need [for the program],” Hodges told the council. “We see people who have these needs and we don’t always know where to send them. That is one of the hopes of this grant — that we’re better trained to know what’s in our community, so if we can’t help directly we can refer to someone who can.”
Council member Terry Cummings, who works at Ascension Seton Hays Hospital, said that in her position she gives resources to community members for how to access all different levels of mental health assistance, and would be “very happy” to share her resources with the library going forward.
The library will next design a project work plan over the next few months in collaboration with mental health professionals and other member libraries on how to best use these resources and grant funding for the community.