May is Mental Health Month in Denton County – the perfect time to highlight how important this issue is to us at the Denton County Commissioners Court.
With one in five adults having a diagnosable mental health condition and only half of Denton County parents aware of mental health services in their community, the need for comprehensive coordinated mental health services for individuals and families places on our community a critical responsibility to promote mental wellness, recovery, and support.
According to the 2022 Community Needs Assessment by the United Way of Denton County, anxiety disorder was the number one diagnosis in Denton County in 2021 among patients seen by the Denton County MHMR.
The assessment also revealed a decline in the number of service providers that accept Medicaid in Denton County, dropping from 320 in 2012 to 183 almost a decade later. In addition, among the top 10 percent of counties, the ratio of mental health providers to residents is 1 to 250. In Denton County, that ratio is 1 to 750.
To help address these issues, Commissioners Court recently approved the hiring of two full-time mental health navigators under the direction of the Denton County Public Health (DCPH) to launch a new program making it easier for individuals to find available resources to address non-emergency mental health concerns.
As part of DCPH Links, navigators will assess the help-seeker’s need, make direct referrals to service providers, follow up to assess if the linkage was successful, build and maintain an online mental health resource directory, and track community assets and gaps in services.
DCPH Links will make initial contact with those seeking mental health services within three business days. The program is anticipated to come online this summer.
The idea of navigators for mental health started when we noted an increasing number of inmates with mental health issues. We decided the best decision was to have navigators, find out what problems existed, and find the resources needed to address the issues.
DCPH was determined as the best place for the navigators to position the program in a manner in which, once funding from the American Rescue Plan Act ran out, DCPH would be able to find additional grant funds to cover the costs of the mental health navigators.
When I learned of a 5-year-old who ran into traffic because he no longer wanted to live, it touched my heart.
We cannot allow this to continue to happen.
May 10th has also been proclaimed as Children’s Mental Health Day in Denton County to bring attention to the issue of mental health needs among the youngest in our society.
The Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership Team, Denton County MHMR, United Way of Denton County, and the Wellness Alliance for Total Children’s Health of Denton County, led by Cooks Children’s, through their unique partnership and prevention-based approaches to serving children and adolescents, are effectively addressing the mental health needs of children, youth, and families in our community.
It is appropriate that a day should be set apart each year for the direction of our thoughts toward children’s mental health and well-being.
These efforts in addressing the mental health needs of all ages are of vital importance. The need is now.
For anyone experiencing a mental health emergency, please do not wait. Call the emergency crisis line at 1-800-762-0157.