Part of the mission of KXAN News is to foster a more informed and engaged community. We deliver in-depth coverage on topics like affordability, safety and mobility that affect the daily lives of Central Texans. And we explore sustainable solutions to economic, systemic and social problems. One way to achieve those goals is providing direct and consistent access to leaders who make decisions that shape local policy — seeking to understand their stances, holding them accountable for promises and asking tough questions when needed. This series of interviews with City of Austin Mayor Kirk Watson is designed with that in mind.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — KXAN spoke to Austin Mayor Kirk Watson Wednesday about his efforts to solidify future funding for mental health services and his hopes for the person stepping into Austin’s homeless strategy officer position.
Mental health funding
At a Central Health Board of Managers meeting last week, members voted to shuffle at least $7 million in funding from its reserve fund to Integral Care — Travis County’s largest mental health provider — in an attempt to offset recently announced staff cuts.
It’s a move Watson pushed for, saying the issue was urgent and that the resources being cut were ones Austin couldn’t afford to lose.
Here’s KXAN’s conversation with Mayor Watson on Integral Care’s funding shortfall and long-term solutions:
Integral Care provides resources for people with mental health illnesses, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to its website. Those resources include crisis services — such as the operation of the region’s 988 call center — along with counseling and case management, drug and alcohol treatment and housing services.
Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer, Dianna Grey, is resigning at the end of the month, City leaders previously told KXAN.
Grey was the first person to work as Austin’s homeless strategy officer for a significant period of time. Prior to Grey, Lori Pampilo Harris was given the role but resigned after only a month in 2019.
Here’s KXAN’s conversation with Watson on what he expects from the person who will fill Grey’s shoes. Watson also provided an update on shelter beds, and the latest on the City’s Marshalling Yard which is being used temporarily to shelter people who are homeless:
The homeless strategy officer coordinates the city’s response to homelessness across more than a dozen city departments. Most recently, Grey — alongside Austin Public Health — has helped coordinate the opening of roughly 300 shelter beds at the Marshalling Yard and taking over the former downtown Salvation Army shelter.