Closing the Gaps in Mental Health Services for Children and Youth

By Kelli McAdams

Our Community Our Future (OCOF) was started in the Fall 2015, when Klaras Center for Families (KCF), the child and adolescent division of Heart of Texas Region MHMR, helped to organize a committee of community stakeholders to look at the needs of children and adolescents in our community.

Our initial goal for OCOF was to identify gaps in services and to work with community partners to meet those identified needs. In an effort to help meet some of the needs identified, we at KCF applied for grant funding on behalf of the OCOF committee. We were awarded the grant and received $3.4 million for an initiative called “Closing the Gaps” through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  The mission of Closing the Gaps is, “to provide access to previously inaccessible services and supports for our community’s most at-risk youth in order to enhance opportunities and improve outcomes for future success.”

There are three main targets for the funding of this four-year grant:

  • School Based Mental Health
  • Transition Age Youth (TAY)
  • Crisis Respite for Youth

Here are some examples of how we are using the grant funds…

School Based Mental Health – Through OCOF, we have been able to place counselors and case managers on location at schools in the area.  This makes it possible to provide the children and adolescents with the most intensive mental health needs with the care they need with minimal disruption to their school day. Quick and easy access to a counselor or case manager during times of crisis allows for immediate collaboration with school staff to best meet the student’s needs. We are currently on 25 campuses and are serving at least 125 students.

Transition Age Youth – Transition Age Youth (TAY) are individuals ages of 18 to 22. Our grant allows us to provide people in this age range with mental health services and additional support for life skills, education, and employment. Currently we are serving around 30 individuals.

Crisis Respite for Youth – Crisis Respite is a service that is much needed in our community. This means providing a temporary place to stay for young people who need something other than a juvenile placement, CPS placement, or psychiatric hospitalization. For example, Crisis Respite is needed for …

  • children in mental health crisis
  • homeless youth in crisis
  • victims of human trafficking
  • CPS youth in need of respite
  • other similar situations.

Klaras Center for Families is currently in the process of finding a facility that will serve as the Crisis Respite. It is our plan to have our facility function much like a residential home environment instead of a sterile hospital-like setting.

What are we doing in the future? OCOF’s future plans include expanding our community partners, adding additional school partners, applying for grants to expand our TAY program, and opening our Crisis Respite Facility in 2018. Above all, we want to continue filling gaps in services for children, adolescents, youth, and young adults in our community.


Kelli McAdams works for the Heart of Texas Region MHMR, as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been with the child and adolescent division of MHMR, Klaras Center for Families, for the last 10 years, most recently as Child and Adolescent Crisis Respite Program Director. As part of Our Community Our Future, I am the Social Marketing Lead, and have the pleasure of sharing what the local system of care is doing to fill the gaps in services, in our community.  For more information about collaborative efforts like “Our Community, Our Future” in the Waco community, please visit the Prosper Waco website – www.prosperwaco.org.

he Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

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