WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) —Mental health support resources have become increasingly necessary as many people have faced stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations report seeing many new faces walking through their doors.
Just north of Austin, Williamson County’s mental health authority is looking to grow to meet that need, but they’re faced with some challenges.
“We’ve probably had more vacancies now than we’ve had before,” said Mike Maples, Director of Crisis Services for Bluebonnet Trails. “That’s our biggest challenge right now, is recruiting professionals to come work for us.”
Inside the emergency call center in Williamson County, things are about to change.
“You’re going to hear the operator say ‘fire, EMS, law enforcement or mental health,'” said Maples.
As the crisis director for Bluebonnet Trails, Mike Maples is excited about what is to come. The organization recently began working with the county to provide mental health support officers inside the 911 dispatch center.
Soon they will be creating a center where officers can take someone experiencing a mental health crisis rather than to jail.
“And we will be able to return the law enforcement officer back to the streets as quickly as we can,” said Maples.
With this expansion of services comes a need for a much larger workforce, but there are some challenges to hire. These positions are in high demand right now.
“There’s competition… There are other entities and healthcare professions that are also looking to recruit,” said Maples.
Bluebonnet is looking to hire 20 to 30 more employees as part of its expansion efforts. Right now with many jobs out there, employees have some selective opportunity.
“More jobs are up here,” said Omar Seivright.
Omar Seivright is moving to the Austin area from Florida because of the opportunities. He attended Bluebonnet’s hiring event Saturday after hearing the ad on the radio while visiting Austin.
He recognizes that mental health support services is a tough one, but was drawn to the industry for a reason. “Helping people, you never know what little thing you may say that will change someone’s life or help them feel better during that day,” said Seivright.
The 911 crisis center is set to launch at the end of January and be staffed 24-hours a day. Bluebonnet is also preparing to open up its children’s respite center around that time too.