If someone stopped breathing or showed signs of having a heart attack, most people would know how to help. They’d begin administering CPR or call 911. But many of us don’t know how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue. Integral Care, the Local Mental Health Authority in Travis County, is providing free classes to help educate the community on this important issue.


Tonke Casarez works in maintenance for the City of Austin Housing Authority. As part of his job, he interacts with people every day.


“I really like doing this job, meeting new people, talking to people,” said Mr. Casarez, a Mental Health First Aid Graduate. “I’ve always been a people person. I love to interact and get to know everybody,”


His experiences at work and home prompted Mr. Casarez to take Mental Health First Aid, a one of a kind, nationally-recognized mental health training course, so he could learn how to better support the residents. Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour class that teaches people how to help someone showing the signs of mental illness like depression or anxiety, or experiencing a mental health crisis. The class is offered free to the community in Austin, Round Rock and Georgetown thanks to a generous grant from St. David’s Foundation. A partnership with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services makes it possible to offer classes in Williamson, Bastrop and Caldwell counties.


“We recognize that encountering a mental health crisis leaves many of us wondering how best to respond. St. David’s Foundation is delighted to provide support to Integral Care so that more Central Texans can participate in Mental Health First Aid classes, and gain a better understanding of mental illness, and how to assist those who are affected,” said Kim McPherson, Senior Program Officer for St. David’s Foundation. “I’ve personally taken the class and found it useful in my personal and professional life.”


Since 2009, Integral Care has offered Mental Health First Aid training to over 3,500 people in Austin. With 1 in 5 people experiencing a mental health issue any given year, it’s a great resource for the community. Attendees learn:


  • Warning signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illness
  • Information on depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis and substance use disorder
  • A 5-step action plan to help someone in crisis or showing signs of mental illness
  • Professional and self-help resource


The goal of Mental Health First Aid is that attendees walk away with a toolbox they can pull from in their daily lives – whether at work, school, home or in the community.


“If they experience a situation where someone might need mental health support, they can use their skills from their Mental Health First Aid experience to support someone facing a mental health crisis or showing early signs of mental illness.” said Tracy Abzug, Practice Manager and Mental Health First Aid instructor at Integral Care.

“I recommend this class for everybody,” said Mr. Casarez. “I think everybody needs to learn that just because a person is acting a certain way, they’re not trying to act that way toward you. It’s just the way their mental state is or what is happening in their life at that time. Taking this class has also impacted my personal life. My son has ADHD and this has helped me recognize when he might be having anxiety or feeling depressed.”


Take a class. Save a life. Strengthen your community. Sign up today. To register for a class, visit To learn more about Mental Health First Aid and how you can support your friends, neighbors, co-workers and family, visit

If you need shelter as a result of Hurricane Harvey, please call 311 or visit If you need immediate mental health crisis support, please call us 24/7 at 512-472-HELP (4357).

Integral Care, Travis County’s Local Mental Health Authority that supports adults and children living with mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities, announces enhancements to its 24/7 Helpline.


Integral Care’s 24/7 Helpline, originally established as a volunteer crisis and resource hotline in the late 1960s, expanded its services in 2015 to improve access to care and provide direct connection to around-the-clock mental health crisis support as well as Integral Care’s programs and services for adults and children. Most recently, Integral Care began providing access to Helpline services through interpretation services available in 15 languages as well as implemented an automated callback feature.


“Connecting people to ongoing care is critical for recovery, health and well‐being,” said David Evans, CEO of Integral Care. “When someone calls the Helpline, it’s often the first time they’re reaching out for help. Having one point of entry to Integral Care, through our 24/7 Helpline, makes it easier for people to access the health services they need when they need them.”


In FY’17, the Helpline supported almost 250,000 calls. Over 18,000 people were connected to immediate support just by calling 512-472-HELP.


“The Helpline was literally a lifesaver,” said an Integral Care client. “My husband had just passed away. If I hadn’t had the Helpline, I wouldn’t be here today. They gave me reassurance that I was not alone, that there was help out there. They connected me to ongoing care within Integral Care. Today, I have my case manager, my peer support specialist, my nutritionist, my personal trainer. It’s an overall, well-rounded support system that I’ve gotten through Integral Care. It’s made my life whole again.”


Integral Care’s 24/7 Helpline features include:


  • One point of entry to Integral Care’s programs and services.
  • A team of to 40 trained call-center professionals.
  • Access to Integral Care services through interpretation services available in 15 languages.
  • Immediate emotional support for a mental health crisis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Access to Integral Care’s programs and services for adults and children experiencing mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Access to appointment scheduling.
  • Connection to emergency services.
  • Connection to trusted community resources through 211.
  • Support for billing questions.
  • Proactive, follow up calls to ensure services were delivered and the client is benefiting from the services.
  • Automated callbacks so people don’t have to wait on hold when making follow up appointments.


“The Integral Care 24/7 Helpline provides hope to individuals,” said Nicole Warren, supervisor of the Helpline. “That’s what we do on a regular basis. Letting people know that they are not alone, and getting them connected to life-saving resources at Integral Care is an important part of our job. Our Helpline is saving lives and improving access to quality health care for our community.”

The Judge Guy Herman Center for Mental Health Crisis Care is now open for internal referrals through Integral Care’s crisis services. The Herman Center offers the right level of care at the right time while reducing the cost of care and improving health outcomes for patients.

The Herman Center provides short term, emergency psychiatric crisis care for adults in Travis County. It will support our community by providing an alternative to incarceration and in-patient care, and will offer the opportunity to ensure that individuals whose primary issue is mental health have an appropriate and safe place to be stabilized, assessed and treated. The goal is to quickly resolve the immediate crisis so the individual can return home or transfer to another Integral Care residential program for ongoing support and recovery. To learn more about the services of the Center, click here.

Moving forward, primary referrals to the Herman Center will come from law enforcement, healthcare providers like local emergency departments. The Herman Center is not suitable for walk-ins or self referrals.

Thank you to all of our community partners, especially St. David’s Foundation and Central Health, for making this much needed service available in the community. St. David’s Foundation funded the project with a grant totaling almost $9M and Central Health made the land available via a low cost (virtually free) long-term lease, valued at $1.2M.

Integral Care, in partnership with the University of Houston, has been awarded a 3-year, $1.3 million grant through the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). As part of the Taking Texas Tobacco Free project, the grant will help at least 18 substance use disorder treatment centers in Texas implement a sustainable, multi-component, tobacco-free workplace program.

The mission of Taking Texas Tobacco Free is to promote wellness by reducing tobacco use and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke among employees, clients and visitors. This grant follows two other successful CPRIT-funded grant projects with Integral Care and the University of Houston. Through those projects, we helped 22 local mental health authorities in Texas implement sustainable, multi-component tobacco-free workplace programs.

Integral Care was awarded a grant by St. David’s Foundation to expand our Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training program. We are now offering weekly classes to the community. MHFA is a one-day training that teaches people how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health crisis or showing signs of mental illness or substance use disorder. Just like CPR can save someone who can’t breathe or is having a heart attack, MHFA can save a life. Register for MHFA today.

There is an urgent health crisis facing our country. Over the last 15 years, there has been a major increase in deaths and overdoses from prescription drugs across the United States. To ensure the health and safety of our clients and reduce the risk of adverse events, Integral Care will limit the use of sedatives and some anti-anxiety, narcotic and psychostimulant medications to our clients effective January 1, 2017. Exceptions to the prescribing policy will include some medications for clients 18 or younger and some medications for clients going through medically-supervised detox. This policy applies to all Integral Care clinics, including Psychiatric Emergency Services. This policy is consistent with other mental health authorities.

Integral Care staff received special training and is working closely with each client to transition them to medications that are safer and still effective over the coming months. We’re also working with stakeholders across the community to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the clients we serve. Please contact Medical Director Dr. Craig Franke at or (512) 445-7750 with any questions or concerns. You can also learn more about the prescribing changes here.

Integral Care’s vision of Healthy Living for Everyone promotes an inclusive culture respectful of all individuals. We comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. To support positive health outcomes for the diverse populations we serve, we also provide Language Access Services to individuals with disabilities as well as non-English speakers to ensure everyone gets the care they need. Learn more here.

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