The North Texas Behavioral Health Authority’s (NTBHA) has been filling the gaps in Kaufman County with services of care coordination and outreach, screening, assessment and referral for the past three years. Eighteen months ago, planning started to create a larger program, where all services could be under one roof in one location to support individuals in Kaufman County with local mental health care.  

In June, program staff hosted a grand opening to celebrate the launch of the Kaufman County Bridge, which was created as a way to bridge the gap in services throughout the community. 

“The Kaufman Bridge was created to bridge the gaps in services and to support the different providers,” said Nancy Blum, the chief of regional operations for NTBHA. “Our goal is to support everyone in the community.” 

The Bridge has numerous programs and resources to help community members receive services for mental health and substance use disorders.

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in demand for these services, Blum said. While some individuals may have struggled with mental health and substance use disorders prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bridge staff is seeing an increase in the need for services for people who had not experienced it prior to the pandemic.

Part of the increase in need came from people who have been impacted in multiple areas of their lives. These changes  “shook” what was considered normal life until the pandemic required school, business and complete closures of the communities and added social distancing. Many individuals were impacted by the losing their jobs or impacted by the loss of income, as well as loss of homes and family members. 

The pandemic has impacted everyone at some level. Reports in the media shared the stories of front-line and essential workers who were experiencing added stress because of the concern of possibly bringing the virus home to their family members while working without the available protection and before a vaccine was available.

"As we all continue to learn more over time how big the impact is we already see there is an increase in mental health and substance use needs, due to the stressors of the pandemic and reports that staff are receiving from the community, it appeared to be the perfect timing for this program to open," NTBHA officials said. 

Care coordinators are available at the Bridge to help find available resources within the community, such as mental health medication services, substance use disorders programs, housing and utility assistance information, support groups, and information on health and wellness benefits. Care Coordinators help children, adults, and families at the Bridge.

Carol Williams is the primary care coordinator at the Kaufman County Bridge Program with support from other teammates and programs. Once a needs assessment by Williams or another care coordinator is completed, they can link individuals to treatment or to useful resources in the community.

One of the many services that the NTBHA Bridge in Kaufman has is the Outreach Screening Assessment and Referral Program (OSAR). OSAR serves adults and adolescents 13 and older who need assistance accessing a vast array of substance use treatments such as detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment, drug education, or peer recovery support. Whether individuals are uninsured or under-insured, the OSAR team can assist. Janet Cowan-Buchanan is the director of OSAR at the Bridge in Kaufman. The Bridge strongly stands by their motto, “We are here to support you on your journey."

One of the local providers is Southern Area Behavioral Health Care, which provides outpatient services such as medication monitoring, case management, skills training, psychiatric evaluations, and additional services. 

SABHC is located next door the Kaufman County Bridge Program. Services are available for in-person, visits as well as telehealth services. SABHC has locations in Dallas and due to increase in requests in Kaufman and surrounding counties for crisis and after hour services, SABHA wanted to bring services to Kaufman County. The Kaufman County location is open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Telehealth services are available from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 

During the pandemic, suicide rates have been increasing among adults and children. Most people who die by suicide are males ranging in age from teens to the middle aged, according to the Hogg Foundation. 

But during the pandemic, suicide has increased in all age categories across the board, Blum said. 

“We as humans do not like the unknown,” said Rolanda Williams-Freeney, the chief operating officer of SABHC. "This is a large part of why levels for mental health, substance use, and suicide rates are on the rise because this event is something new to us and something that has yet to be completely conquered."

NTBHA’s other partners and providers in Kaufman County also include Lakes Regional Community Center, Integrated Psychotherapeutic Service (IPS), Child and Family Guidance, and APPA. 

The Kaufman Bridge Location is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. To reach out to the Bridge Program, call (469) 780-9159 or email kaufmancountybridge@ntbha.org

People in crises are encouraged to call the 24-hour NTBHA crisis line at (866) 260-8000. The NTBHA 24-hour COVID-19 mental health support line is available at (833) 251-7544

For additional resources and services please visit www.ntbha.org.

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