New School and Community Alliance meeting Sept. 14 for first time

By Josh Caballero and Sarah Pedrotti

Schools are facing unique challenges this year, and they need our support. Teachers are overwhelmed, and students and families are facing new challenges brought on by a global pandemic. 

Schools always have a difficult job making sure educators have what they need to teach effectively so students are able to learn. But this year they have the additional challenge of trying to do these things while also trying to keep everyone safe and ensuring that families have all the resources they need while trying to keep everyone safe. 

More than ever, they need our help as a community, but it can be difficult to know how to help in a way that is actually useful.

This year, Prosper Waco has combined several of it’s school-based workgroups to form the School and Community Alliance to offer support to students and families in our area schools. The School and Community Alliance is made up of the Informal Learning, Mentoring Alliance, and Wrap Around Service workgroups and is led by the two of us — Josh Caballero and Sarah Pedrotti. 

The Alliance’s first meeting of the school year will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14 at over Zoom and will focus on the goals of the workgroup and project proposals for the year. If you’re interested in being part of the group and learning how you can support our schools, register here

Josh Caballero is director of community organizing for Grassroots Community Development, and Sarah Pedrotti is director of student advocacy for Transformation Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

County census data #4: Housing & households

By Jeremy Rhodes

The first wave of data releases from the 2020 US Census is here, and many of the demographic shifts that we’ve seen across the country and the state are mirrored in our Waco community. In this series of posts, I am presenting some of the demographic changes we see in McLennan County from 2010 to 2020. 

The first post presented numbers regarding general population growth and decline. The second post showed an overview of racial and ethnic changes in the county. The third post expanded on the racial/ethnic changes in McLennan County since 2010. In this post, we will look at some of the changes to the housing landscape in Waco since 2010.


This first map shows the number of housing units in each area, as well as the change in housing units since 2010. The orange areas saw a decline in total housing units, with darker shades indicating a larger decline. The green areas saw an increase in total housing units, with darker shades indicating a larger increase. The top number shows the total number of housing units in that area, while the bottom number shows the change in number of housing units since 2010.

Most of central Waco and north Waco saw little change in total number of housing units from 2010 to 2020. The largest growth in housing units was seen in China Spring, with an addition of 1131 housing units, and Hewitt, with an addition of 1,000 units. Only six census tracts saw declines in the number of housing units since 2010. One of the historic East Waco tracts (tract 15) saw the largest decline in housing units, with a loss of 141 households. Most of the county saw moderate to robust housing growth.


The second map is similar to the first. The coloring is the same, with green shades indicating growth in housing units since 2010, and orange shades indicating decline in housing units since 2010. The black number in each tract is different in this map; it displays the number of residents per household in that area. Most of the county has between two and three people per household. Notable exceptions include downtown Waco and historic East Waco, where there are fewer than two residents per housing unit.

There are two outlier tracts that should be explained. In the northwest of the map, you will see a tract with 17 people per household. That tract is the airport, and we should not think too much about housing and population data for that tract. The other outlier is the tract containing Baylor University, which has a “persons per household” of 149.6. Although the Census Bureau does not consider dorms to be housing units, I cannot be certain how they obtained such a high number while excluding dorms from consideration.

If you have any questions about this, or if you would like Jeremy to give an overview of these changes to your group, staff, or organization through Zoom or in person, please contact Jeremy Rhodes at [email protected].  

Jeremy Rhodes, Ph.D., is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

County census data #3: More on racial/ethnic changes

By Jeremy Rhodes

The first wave of data releases from the 2020 US Census is here, and many of the demographic shifts that we’ve seen across the country and the state are mirrored in our Waco community. In this series of posts, I will present some of the demographic changes we see in McLennan County from 2010 to 2020. 

The first post presented numbers regarding general population growth and decline. The second post showed an overview of racial and ethnic changes in the county. This post will expand on the racial/ethnic changes in McLennan County since 2010.

I made a series of maps that show us which parts of Waco have experienced growth and decline for some of the major racial and ethnic groups from 2010-2020, using census tract boundaries. For each of these maps, the orange areas showed decline for that group, while the green areas showed increases for that group. The black numbers represent the percentage of the residents in that tract who identify with that racial or ethnic group, according to 2020 census numbers. 

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Census Bureau advises caution when comparing the racial and ethnic composition of 2010 to that of 2020. According to their website, “data comparisons between the 2020 Census and 2010 Census race data should be made with caution, taking into account the improvements we have made to the Hispanic origin and race questions and the ways we code what people tell us.”


The first map shows us Waco’s Latino population. Almost the entire map is green, indicating numerical growth in almost every census tract. “Percent Latino” declined in 4 census tracts, but increased everywhere else in the county. Even areas with a relatively small Latino population, such as China Spring, Speegleville, Woodway, and Hewitt, showed increases.


The next map shows Waco’s population who identify as White alone, non-Hispanic. It’s almost the complete opposite of the Hispanic map. Whereas the map of Latinos is almost entirely green, the map of Whites is almost entirely orange. Four census tracts in the interior of Waco show modest increases in percentage of the population that is White, but those are all tracts that already have a low percentage of Whites.

Everywhere else in the county shows declines in percentage of the population that is White. It should be noted that the orange areas do not necessarily represent a decline in the number of White people in that area, just a decline in the percentage of the population that is White. Many of the orange areas on each of these maps have more people in them from those groups, just a lower share of the population. It should also be noted that most of the orange areas on this map are a dark orange, indicating a decline of more than 5 percentage points since 2010.


The next map shows the growth and distribution of Black residents in Waco who identify as only Black, non-Hispanic. Unlike the maps for Latinos and Whites, this map shows a mixed story. The tracts are split evenly between those that show growth in percentage Black and those that show decline. East Waco showed a decline in percentage Black, but these areas are still the places in Waco with the highest percentage of African Americans.


The next map shows the growth and distribution of Asians in Waco, which includes folks who identify with East Asian cultures such as those of China and Korea, Southeast Asian cultures such as those of Vietnam and Indonesia, and South Asian cultures such as those of India and Pakistan. Similar to the story for Latinos, most of Waco has seen an increase in the percentage of residents who identify as Asian. Most of the areas of Central Waco have seen modest increases in percent Asian, though the numbers remain small. In most Waco census tracts, less than 2% of the residents are Asian. The notable exceptions include areas near Baylor University, and the Hewitt/Woodway areas.


The final map shows the percentage of Waco residents who identify with more than one racial identity. All areas have shown growth, and the shade of green shows the amount of growth for that census tract. The areas with the darkest shade of green, mostly within the city limits, have each seen increases of at least 10 percentage points. As I mentioned in the previous post, the increase in multiracial people is caused by 3 reasons.

  1. Improvements in the census questions allow for a more accurate count
  2. Reduced stigma for interracial couples has led to more pairings, and more biracial children
  3. Interracial people are more willing to identify as such than in the past

If you have any questions about this, or if you would like Jeremy to give an overview of these changes to your group, staff, or organization through Zoom or in person, please contact Jeremy Rhodes at [email protected].  

Jeremy Rhodes, Ph.D., is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

County census data #2: Racial & ethnic population changes

By Jeremy Rhodes

The first wave of data released from the 2020 US Census is here, and many of the demographic shifts that we’ve seen across the country and the state are mirrored in our Waco community. In this series of posts, I am presenting some of the demographic changes we see in our county from 2010 to 2020. The first post presented numbers regarding general population growth and decline. This second post will show an overview of racial and ethnic changes in the county.

The census website advises caution when comparing the racial and ethnic composition of 2010 to that of 2020. According to their website, “data comparisons between the 2020 Census and 2010 Census race data should be made with caution, taking into account the improvements we have made to the Hispanic origin and race questions and the ways we code what people tell us.”

With that caveat in mind, from 2010 to 2020, the U.S. saw the most dramatic growth among two racial and ethnic groups: Latinos and multiracial people. The U.S. saw a 23% increase in Latinos, while the state of Texas saw a 21% increase in Latinos. In McLennan County, the Latino population increased by 23.6%, or an addition of 13,116 people. Multiracial Americans also saw significant growth throughout much of the United States. In McLennan County, multiracial people now make up 11.8% of the population, which is an increase of 428.6%.

The following table shows a more detailed racial and ethnic makeup for the county, in comparison to Texas and the entire U.S.

The tremendous growth of multiracial people is caused by multiple factors. The most obvious factor has to do with lessening stigma against interracial relationships. As we come to see more and more interracial pairings, we will have more biracial children being born.

Second, the Census Bureau has improved the way they ask the race/ethnicity question by creating two separate questions for race and ethnicity, which experts believe will provide a more accurate portrait of how people identify (this change is expected to also improve our count of Latinos in America).

Third, there is evidence that multiracial individuals are more willing to identify as such than in the past. For example, a person who has one Black parent and one Latino parent is now less likely to choose between those two identities, and more likely to identify as both.

The next post in this series will display maps that show where we have seen the growth and decline for specific racial/ethnic groups in Waco. If you have any questions about this, or if you would like Jeremy to give an overview of these changes to your group, staff, or organization through Zoom or in person, please contact Jeremy Rhodes at [email protected].  

Jeremy Rhodes, Ph.D., is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

County census data #1: Total population

By Jeremy Rhodes

The first wave of data releases from the 2020 US Census is here, and many of the demographic shifts that we’ve seen across the country and the state are mirrored in our Waco community. In this series of four posts, I will present some of the demographic changes we see in McLennan County from 2010 to 2020. This first post will be an overview of the changes in the data reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In all, McLennan County saw an increase of 10.9% from 2010 to 2020. The county added an additional 25,673 residents, with a 2020 population of 260,579. Of the McLennan County residents, 53.1%, or 138,486 people, live in the city of Waco. This rate of growth is lower than the Texas growth rate of 15.9%, but higher than the total U.S growth rate of 7.4%.

The map shows where we saw growth and decline in McLennan County from 2010-2020. The coloring shows the change in total population. Green areas showed increases in total population, while red areas showed decreases. The numbers represent the total 2020 population for that area. The geographic boundaries are census tracts according to the established 2019 boundaries.

The highest growth rates appear along the outskirts of the Waco city limits, in communities such as China Spring, Speegleville, Woodway, Hewitt, Robinson, and Bellmead. Areas that saw population decline over this time include East Waco, downtown Waco, and the 10 to 15 blocks on either side of the 25th/26th St. corridor, running from I-35 in the southeast to Park Lake Dr. in North Waco. Those areas are also characterized by lower populations than the rest of the city.

In the next posts, we will begin exploring the changing racial and ethnic dynamics of McLennan County. If you have any questions about this, or if you would like Jeremy to give an overview of these changes to your group, staff, or organization through Zoom or in person, please contact Jeremy Rhodes at [email protected].  

Jeremy Rhodes, Ph.D., is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Big Waco functions as a ‘regional hub’ of neighbors

By Ferrell Foster

People mean different things when they say “Waco.” Some mean the Waco of a few years ago (much smaller geographically); others think primarily of downtown and Baylor (where the action is), others mean the current city limits (reaching further and further out).

When I think of Waco, I think of what I call Big Waco and some call Greater Waco. I think of the city, plus Woodway, Hewitt, China Spring, Lacy Lakeview, Bellmead, Robinson, even all of McLennan County. Big Waco is big.

The national City Health Dashboard identifies 10 city types and includes 57 small to midsize Texas cities in their data. Waco is considered a “regional hub.” There are only three regional hubs in Texas — Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Waco. Nearby Temple is identified as a “working town.” College Station, Denton, and San Marcos are called “college cities.”

The regional hub designation, I think, captures the essence of Waco. We are different from a working town or a college city. We are more — for better or worse. 

The better part of being a regional hub is that people from surrounding communities come here to do business and to be entertained. Central Waco is like a magnet drawing people and resources to its core and helping all regional residents enjoy a better-resourced, more-connected life.

But there is a downside for regional hubs. The City Health Dashboard says this of the group: Regional hubs are “midsize ‘micropolitan’ cities that serve as hubs within smaller metro areas, with high inequality and large Black populations, where most residents work locally, and populations are decreasing.” Here are some characteristics of regional hubs:

— Great income inequality; “Black households earned 46% less than their White counterparts and this wage gap has been increasing.” (In Waco, Blacks earn about 40% less than Whites. In McLennan County, 47% less.)

— An average of 25% of residents live below the federal poverty line. (In Waco, 26.2% are below the poverty line. In the county, 19%.)

— Average life expectancy of 76 years at birth. (In Waco, 77 years.)

— Average rent burden of 54%, with an increase of 11.8% between 2000 and 2017
across cities.

(My thanks to the Prosper Waco research team for the local numbers.)

The future of Waco is captured in this simple picture. As a regional hub, we have a real opportunity for economic growth and lifestyle satisfaction. But, we should not be content with only a part of Waco and its region doing well. We need to care about racial, financial, and health inequities.

If we can address the downside challenges while we pursue the upside opportunities, we will be more than a regional hub; we will be a very good place to live, work, and do business.

I have two basic points here:

First, some people have a narrow view of Waco (the central city). I think it’s good for us to see this community more broadly, including acceptance of the surrounding towns and school districts as part of one whole. Each city/town, neighborhood, and school district is distinct, but we are connected — Big Waco.

Second, those who do not live in the parts of Big Waco that face serious economic and health challenges are still connected to those neighborhoods. In order for Big Waco to prosper, all of us are needed, especially in addressing our most challenging issues.

My faith tells me it is critical to love my neighbor. And love in that context does not mean an emotion; it is a commitment to serve. And neighbor is not just the person next door; it is anyone in need that I can help. Waco needs to be a place of good neighbors in the best and highest since of the phrase.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Construction & hospitality job training courses set for summer

By Tiffany Gallegos Whitley

June has been a busy month recruiting for UpSkill Waco summer training. I’m excited to have Heaven Lee, our new UpSkill Waco coordinator, onboard the team to help with training coordination and recruitment. 

We are actively seeking participants for the next “Construction Core” training with Texas State Technical College July 12 and a new “Hospitality Fundamentals” course with McLennan Community College July 19. In addition to these courses, a healthcare training course is in the works for early August. 

The summer classes will be during the day, with evening courses planned for late summer/early fall. 

We are working to build a variety of scheduling options and rotating training locations around neighborhood locations to ensure we are fulfilling UpSkill Waco’s purpose of providing flexible and accessible workforce training around the county. 

Scholarships are still available for individuals who cannot afford training costs. The applications for training and scholarships can be found on UpSkill Waco’s website at upskill-waco.org. We are looking for 12 students for Construction Core and 16 for Hospitality Fundamentals, so please help us get the word out! Please reach out to [email protected] with any questions. 

Tiffany Gallegos Whitley is director of workforce initiatives for Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Mothers need more than flowers, jewelry, cards

By Tiffiney Gray

As we celebrated Mother’s Day recently, I was filled with excitement and so much appreciation for my generous, intelligent, and amazingly patient mother and mentor, Brenda Gray. I’m also thankful to be a mom to two incredible young daughters, and it’s a true delight to celebrate my friends who are also on this remarkable “mommyhood” journey. (I call it “mommyhood” because Olivia – my 19-month-old – sings “Mommy!” at least 500 times every day. I can see my fellow moms nodding their heads right now!)

Unfortunately, that joy is often tempered as I reckon with a harsh reality for women in Texas: Thousands of new moms celebrate Mother’s Day knowing they lack access to lifesaving, postpartum physical and mental health care. 

Currently, Texas women enrolled in Medicaid for Pregnant Women – women in families at up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), or with income of $2,290/month – lose that coverage 60 days after giving birth, and only those at 14% FPL (about $251 in income per month for a family of three with two parents) can extend Medicaid coverage. 

In fact, between 2016 and 2018, there were an estimated 105,000 uninsured new mothers living in Texas. That means 105,000 new moms left vulnerable to life-threatening complications and health conditions that may occur within the first year postpartum.

I worry about the mom who has an infection. The mom who has a dangerously high spike in blood pressure. The mom who needs emergency surgery. The mom who finally suspects she has postpartum depression … on day 70. I worry about these moms. And I worry about their sweet babies. 

  • The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee found that nine out of 10 pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, and one-third of maternal deaths occurred 43 days to one year after pregnancy.
  • The physiological strains that pregnancy puts on the body can exacerbate and have lingering effects on other unrelated (non-reproductive) systems that put a mom’s health at risk. 
  • The most common pregnancy-related and childbirth-related causes of death are cardiovascular diseases, excessive bleeding (or hemorrhage), infection, and cerebrovascular incidents (stroke), mental health needs, and other heart issues, which require specialty care and complex treatments.
  • While 20% of postpartum health care spending occurs within the first 60 days, a whopping 70% of postpartum costs occur after 90 days within the first year after giving birth. This spending is on infrequent but urgent services like surgeries and hospitalizations. 

Fortunately, there is hope! On April 14, the Texas House passed House Bill 133 – a bill that extends Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women from 60 days to 12 months after giving birth. This means that new moms are able to keep their health insurance for a full year after pregnancy, and it’s a key step toward preventing maternal deaths, addressing postpartum depression, and supporting healthy moms and babies. In fact, the Texas Maternal Mortality Review Committee’s number one recommendation to improve maternal health in Texas is “that health care coverage be extended to 12 months postpartum to help identify and properly manage health conditions before they become life-threatening.” 

Extending postpartum Medicaid will save women’s lives. It will allow access to comprehensive healthcare services; strong and established physician provider networks; and critical services like surgery, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations. 

Some contend that existing state programs – such as Healthy Texas Women (HTW) and Healthy Texas Women Plus (HTW+) – meet the same postpartum needs as Medicaid. HTW+ even includes some provisions for screening and treatment of chronic conditions (like diabetes and high blood pressure) and postpartum depression. But the services available to moms with HTW and HTW+ are limited in scope and just don’t measure up as adequate alternatives to the health insurance that Medicaid offers.

New mothers desperately need access to the full range of healthcare services that Medicaid makes possible. And new babies need care and nurturing from moms who are at their healthiest — their survival and development depend on it. 

House Bill 133 passed with tremendous bi-partisan support in the House but is currently stalled in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Which leads me to ask the question…

Why aren’t we more motivated to ensure healthcare for new moms? 

Fellow moms, think about how vulnerable you felt your first six weeks, 12 weeks … even six months after giving birth. Grandmothers, do you remember helping your adult daughters navigate those first three months with a newborn? It’s hard. It’s scary. It requires tremendous emotional and hands-on support from family. It is not the moment to pull the rug out from under new mothers most in need of societal support. 

One thing that has become abundantly clear during the year of COVID is that mothers are, in fact, the foundation of our society and economy. Mothers with means. Mothers in poverty. Married moms. Single moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. 

Mothers watchfully nurture infants, keep them alive and healthy, and take on the task of developing resilient, self-sufficient people who grow up to become contributing adults. The least we can do is support healthcare legislation that improves the chances of survivability for new moms who need a little more help.

I want a few things for Mother’s Day this year. Healthy, thriving daughters. The laughter and delight of family and friends. And I wouldn’t turn down breakfast in bed. But it’s time to put more than flowers, jewelry, and cards in our Mother’s Day baskets. It’s time to enact legislation that tells every new mom in Texas that she is respected enough to support her full physical, psychological, and emotional recovery from bringing a new baby into this world.

Tiffiney Gray is senior content specialist for health initiatives with Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

We all win when women win

By Dexter Hall

As we approach Mother’s Day, my mother Mrs. Mildred Y. Hall has weighed heavy on my heart. I lost my mother on Sept. 3, 2019, and not a day has gone by that something has not reminded me of her.

Mildred Y. Hall and her son, Dexter Hall

My mother was a fiercely independent woman who raised five kids and worked her entire life until her health failed. As a kid I knew she worked a lot and sometimes held two jobs. Because of her job(s) she wasn’t always able to make it to my school events. While it was disappointing, as an adult doing financial security work in our community, I have an even better understanding of “WHY.”

The pandemic has been a force to be reckoned with across numerous fronts. This beast has shined light on many disparities in our community, including those impacting women, as it did my mother.

I was deeply troubled when the January unemployment numbers showed 346,000 members of our American community had filed for unemployment. I became more troubled and saddened when I learned 80% or 246,000 of those who had filed were women. February-November 2020 statistics show 5.3 million women have lost their jobs compared to 4.6 million men. 

These numbers alone are startling by themselves but are compounded by gender/ethnicity pay gaps. 

According to a study by J.P. Morgan Chase on Racial Gaps in Financial Outcomes, “Black women (like my mother) face the greatest gap in take-home income and liquid assets compared to White men, but racial gaps are larger among men than women.”

Women of color and especially Black women have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic.

Working women have now lost more than three decades of labor force gains in less than a year, as reported in the new issue of Fortune. The ongoing employment crisis, which is closely aligned with a widespread caregiving crisis, has especially hurt the women of color who disproportionately work in restaurants, retail, education, health care, and other “essential” industries. These workers, who are often paid very low wages, rarely have the option of working remotely and trying to schedule their paid work around remote learning and other childcare responsibilities.

My mother would say she has known this to be true long before a pandemic.

Having less costs more – especially for those trying to invest in their own education. Black graduates with bachelor’s and associate’s degrees carry 13% and 26% more student debt than their White peers. They also get paid less, earning 27% and 14% less for the same degrees.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking at JPMorgan Chase, says we must move beyond the “ingrained perception that talking about money and race is taboo, and that financial hardship results simply from bad personal decisions. . . . It also requires moving beyond a culture with the prevailing ideology that success comes simply from individual responsibility.”

While my mother was not the CEO of a bank, she certainly managed what she had while working two jobs and raising a family like she was the leader of one. I salute my mother, Mrs. Mildred Y. Hall and the fight she instilled in me to fight for our community and ensure an inclusive economy for all.

When women win, we all win! Happy Mother’s Day.

Prosper Waco welcomes you to join us in the fight for an inclusive economy for women and everyone. Please contact me for opportunities to assist at [email protected]

Dexter Hall is chief of staff and senior content specialist for financial security with Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco Police supported in addressing social determinants

By Telawna Kirbie

It is my pleasure to introduce a new program in our community called Waco Connect. This community-based program is a joint venture of both Prosper Waco and the Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center.

Social Determinants of Health

Our goal is to provide social care coordination to community members to promote physical and mental health with a focus on resources that address the “Social Determinants of Health” (SDoH). The World Health Organization defines SDoH as “the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age.” 

The determinants include, but are not limited to, housing, financial stability, employment, education, transportation, both physical and psychological safety, as well as various social needs. By improving SDoH, we have the ability to directly impact the overall physical and mental health of our community. 

An early phase of Waco Connect is a collaboration with the Waco Police Department that is being sponsored by the City of Waco. Waco Connect will support community members who have underlying mental health needs that lead to frequent law enforcement contacts. Waco Connect staff will complete a needs assessment, assist the community member in identifying goals, link them to resources, and offer ongoing support for up to one year. A main objective of this program is to reduce law enforcement contacts, emergency department visits, and mental health crises that require hospitalization. 

When we help meet the needs of those who are struggling, we all benefit. Mental health crises have implications that start with an individual and ripple out to affect all levels of our communities. As Waco Connect works to link our community members to resources and assist them in accessing services that promote mental health, we will be addressing individual needs that will hopefully lead to improvements in physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life. By avoiding more costly interventions such as law enforcement involvement, emergency department visits, and inpatient hospitalizations, we will have increased access to already limited resources. 

Waco Connect is looking to launch this phase of the program in June of this year.

Telawna Kirbie is director of behavioral health initiatives with Prosper Waco.

The 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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].