The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded a $4 million grant to the City of Houston in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine to provide Houston-area students with mental health screenings and resources. The program, titled Be-Well Be-Connected, will be led by Dr. Laurel Williams, associate professor of psychiatry at Baylor, division head for child and adolescent psychiatry and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

The four-year grant will serve at-risk students, ages six to 17 years old, with serious and persistent mental illness. Baylor health care teams will provide evidence-based cognitive behavioral intervention for children with bipolar disorder and first episode psychosis. The direct intensive services will be conducted at their homes, alleviating transportation issues for many families.

“We do not have many places in Houston that have this capability to provide this level of intensity of services,” Williams said. “Having in-home therapy can allow the young person to stay engaged in their community and in their schools, which can promote wellness and reduction in symptoms burden more quickly.”

The City Mayor’s Office of Education is program manager of the grant.

“I created the Office of Education to support school districts in Houston because they are doing the essential work of guaranteeing that our next generation of adults is educated and ready for the future,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “The grant validates our efforts and more importantly will provide care on the frontlines of a key health issue involving young people.”

The grant will additionally provide first level screening of youth in five independent schools districts across the Houston area, as well immediate tele-mental health crisis care at select school campuses, and connect the children and their families with resources beyond the immediate crisis through the newly developed Texas State Child Mental Health Consortium.

“Houston and our surrounding area is primed to really take children’s mental health care to the next needed level. This SAMHSA grant opportunity coupled with the State Consortium will allow better coordination amongst services and an overall increase in available services – services that are desperately needed,” Williams said.

Other hospital systems partnering with Baylor include: Texas Children’s Hospital, Harris Health System, Menninger Clinic, Harris Center, Veteran’s Mental Health Care Line, Legacy and DePelchin’s Children’s Center.