United Way announces mental health grant (Denton Record-Chronicle)

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As published in the Denton Record-Chronicle, Nov. 25, 2015

The United Way of Denton County announced Tuesday its first grant for mental health services since the formation of a countywide behavioral health leadership team in June.

The agency will send $2,000 to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Denton County to expand its local support groups.

NAMI Denton County President Yvonne Broach said the grant will fund training for more peer leaders. The group currently has three peer leaders. With the grant, they’ll be able to train more peer leaders for NAMI Connection Support Group meetings.

“These meetings are for people who have a diagnosis and are in recovery, and who will be able to get ‘group wisdom’ in how to deal with day-to-day events,” Broach said.

Participants can learn about community resources, for example, in riding the bus or getting a job. They share experiences in a safe, confidential setting with peer leaders whose training keeps the dialogue on topic and away from therapy-like conversations, Broach said.

“They can feel confident they are with people who share their situation and can talk,” she said.

NAMI Denton County has hosted family support group meetings in Double Oak since 2007. The group recently expanded its support to peer-to-peer meetings, which are held each Thursday evening at the Denton County MHMR Center, 2509 W. Scripture St.

Broach said the grant should make it possible for a second peer-to-peer group meeting in southern Denton County.

“We have people who are driving up from Lewisville and Carrollton every week,” Broach said.

Two work groups from the Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership team recommended the NAMI grant: the child and family systems work group and the consumer work group.

Judge Barbara Gailey, chairwoman of the leadership team, said the consumer work group has proven invaluable.

“Funding to expand NAMI support groups in Denton County is the first of many to validate the needs of our community and to those who need it the most,” Gailey said in a statement released Tuesday by the United Way of Denton County.

Until recently, Denton County had the lowest per capita funding for mental health services in the state, and Texas was near the bottom in funding in the nation.

The local United Way chapter published a local mental health needs assessment in 2013 and updated it in 2014, showing that funding had increased somewhat.

About 77,000 county residents likely have mental illness. Of that number, about 13,400 are adults with severe mental illness and almost 5,000 are children with severe mental illness. The Denton County MHMR has the capacity to serve about 13 percent of those adults and about 8 percent of those children.

Since conducting its assessments, the local United Way has been supporting a leadership team for behavioral health. The quasi-governmental group has been meeting monthly for the past several months to improve the accessibility and quality of local services for people with mental illness. The group adopted bylaws in August, and, this month, the express vision of “comprehensive behavioral health for every person in Denton County.”

For more information about the team, visit the United Way website at www.unitedwaydenton.org/DCCCMH.

For more information about NAMI support groups, visit www.namidenton.org.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.