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TEA News Releases Online Oct. 11, 2017

Mental Health Task Force created for Texas schools and universities affected by Hurricane Harvey

AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Mike Morath today announced the establishment of the Hurricane Harvey Task Force on School Mental Health Supports to mobilize the statewide mental health response in Texas schools impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

At the request of Governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is spearheading the effort in partnership with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and Texas Health and Human Services Commission (THHSC), in collaboration with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. The Task Force will work to develop a list of tiered supports and resources that can be used by school leaders to address the mental health needs of affected staff, students and families. 

“The invisible wounds left behind after this storm are often the most difficult to recover from,” said Governor Abbott. “It is crucial that the State of Texas provides our educators and students with all available resources to address mental health needs as quickly as possible. I am proud of the work TEA is doing, in conjunction with state and local partners, to tend to these needs and assist in the areas of the recovery effort that may be unseen but are deeply felt.” 

“As I’ve traveled the state following Hurricane Harvey, it is evident that addressing the mental health needs of our students and educators is of the utmost importance,” said TEA Commissioner Morath. “This coordinated mental health response will allow our state agencies to coordinate local responses that reflect the specific needs of each individual community.” 

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute will provide the Task Force with infrastructure and support by holding meetings with task force officials, identifying resources, consulting on best practices, recruiting providers and key stakeholders and assisting with the Task Force’s goals to connect impacted schools with resources that will address their mental health needs. 

“Hurricane Harvey was a traumatic event that will leave a mark for years to come. People in the affected areas need our support, and we are moving fast to come together to provide counseling and other mental health services through school partnerships,” said Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Charles Smith. 

“The Coordinating Board is working closely with the Texas Education Agency and the universities, community and technical colleges in the disaster area to make sure that students, faculty, and local school districts are getting the support and mental health services they need,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes. “This task force will provide crucial support to efforts already underway in the region to use counselors, faculty and graduate students in mental health programs to provide additional services to students and educators who are dealing with the impact of the storm’s devastation.”

The Task Force will work to ensure coordinated responses to the needs of public school and university students and personnel suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. As part of that effort, Governor Abbott has charged the Commissioners of the three state agencies with the following:

  • Leveraging existing networks, resources and supports and link to impacted schools and communities; 
  • Surveying and assessing impacted schools and communities and link them to resources; 
  • Developing a comprehensive list of statewide resources and regional resources;
  • Linking responders to school communities in need of services and available supports;
  • Engaging Education Service Centers in impacted regions to convene coordinated and triaged responses and supports; and
  • Supporting development of regional and individualized community responses that reflect the specific needs of each community. 

In addition, the Task Force will also work to coordinate and link local mental health organizations, primary care providers, psychiatric, counseling, and other groups (including volunteer networks) to school districts in impacted areas. 

TEA, THHSC, THECB and representatives from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute are continuing their coordination efforts and will soon provide additional details on accessing these needed services.

To help individuals in the affected areas identify and connect to appropriate services and supports, TEA collaborated with state and federal agencies, and local community organizations, to create the compilation of mental health resources. To view those resources, visit the Hurricane Harvey Recovery: Mental Health Resources for Schools page on the TEA website at https://tea.texas.gov/Harvey_Recovery_MH/.