WILLIAMSON COUNTY, TEXAS (KXAN) — Williamson County leaders want to pour nearly $22 million in leftover federal pandemic funds into the county’s mental health services.
County commissioners approved the fund allocation during an August Commissioners Court meeting.
There are two funds county commissioners are pulling from for the programs. Municipalities can use the CARES Act funds, set to expire at the end of the year for issues related to the pandemic.
The American Recovery Funds are secondary issues that have a longer expiration date.
Williamson County has plans to create a mental health drop-off center for people coming into the justice system with mental health issues. The goal is to keep people out of the jail system who may not need to be there.
The other big focus is providing mental health support for children. Williamson County has a long-time partnership with Bluebonnet Trails and plans to invest over $8 million to fund a 16-bed facility for youth.
Bluebonnet’s current facility in Round Rock will be revamped to include the wing. Executive Director, Andrea Richardson says the location will serve kids they couldn’t previously.
“We have a young boy who we were feverishly trying to find a bed for,” said Andrea Richardson. “He’s 12-years-old and there was no place that could offer him respite.”
Andrea says the 12-year-old autistic boy was experiencing a mental health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. His condition escalated without a connection to care and he eventually became hospitalized.
“With him being at home, he became restless and in some cases violent,” said Richardson.
This is something Richardson wants to spare some parents.
The more than $8 million in federal relief dollars will allow Bluebonnet to construct and sustain the respite center.
Roughly $5 million of the money is coming out of the county’s CARES budget and $16.8 million is coming from the ARPA funds.
After this investment the county will still have over $15 million in leftover funds from CARES Act.
“I think what we saw is a lot of local government who rushed to spend that money,” said Williamson County Treasurer Scott Heselmeyer. “A lot of them thought the pandemic would end 9 to 10 months ago, but what we are seeing is it hasn’t.”
There’s a third layer to this and that includes investing $4.5 million toward a 24-bed inpatient treatment facility at the Georgetown Rock Springs Hospital for those experiencing a mental health illness or substance abuse issue. This money will come out of the ARPA funds since the investment will be ongoing and won’t be completed by the end of the year.
Bluebonnet will have to construct its respite wing at its Round Rock facility by the end of the year, however, since those funds fall under CARES, which expire at the end of the year.