a monthly newsletter from Integral Care

January 2021: Looking Ahead to the Legislative Session

A Message From Our CEO


The Texas Legislature convenes in short order for a session that will present many challenges. With limited access to the Capitol, a significant budget shortfall and a continuing global pandemic, our elected leaders will be tested more this session than in any other during recent memory. In recent sessions, legislators have recognized the importance of access to mental health services to help people build health and wellbeing. It is promising that behavioral health service programs were excluded from the 5% reduction plan requiring certain state agencies and higher education institutions to reduce their budgets by 5% for the current biennium.


Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the State of Texas has expanded telehealth options and availability, a substantial innovation. With the encouragement of healthcare providers across the state, legislators will likely consider maintaining the reimbursement rates and telehealth flexibilities to best serve Texans statewide.


Many of these telehealth platforms were made possible by the 1115 Transformation Waiver, prior to the pandemic. Thanks to the 1115 Waiver, Integral Care built local capacity to provide care for individuals with co-occurring disorders and improve access to services, quality of care, health outcomes and efficiency. With the current 1115 DSRIP program anticipated to end in October 2021, Texas must determine how to maintain the accomplishments and continue to make progress across healthcare systems for individuals with Serious Mental Illness (SMI).


The most promising option is authorizing implementation of a limited benefit package for individuals with SMI in order to maximize federal funds by refinancing individuals through a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic model of care and payment structure.


Our community has been supported through legislative action in past sessions, particularly in the areas of homelessness and our psychiatric state hospital system. In 2013, Senate Bill 58 created the Healthy Community Collaborative (HCC), a grant program to support ongoing recovery and housing stability for individuals experiencing homelessness with unmet behavioral health needs. HCC state funds allow us to support:


  • ECHO to implement the Coordinated Assessment, the tool used to determine the type of housing that best matches an individual’s needs;
  • Salvation Army to support operations at the new Rathgeber Center, which will provide over 200 shelter beds for women and children;
  • and Communities for Recovery for peer support and recovery coaching.

While initial legislation for HCC funding included local match of state funds and anticipated programs would be self-sustaining after seven years, current economic challenges have limited available resources to transition and sustain the gains that have been made through the HCC programs without an extension of the available years of state funding.


ASH rendering [Texas Health and Human Services]

A final consideration for this session will be the continued redesign of the Austin State Hospital (ASH). Last session, Senate Bill 500 provided $165 million to construct the first phase. The redesign of ASH will improve access to quality mental health care and treatment across our community and neighboring service areas. Continued legislative investment this session in ASH, which needs an additional $120M for the second phase of the redesign, will strengthen and improve mental health care and overall well-being of Central Texans.


We look forward to continuing to work with our legislative delegation to strengthen access to services that support healthy living for everyone in our state.

David Evans
Chief Executive Officer


School-Based Counseling in the Time of COVID-19


The ongoing pandemic is exacting a heavy toll on the mental health of children and youth. Despite the current challenges of providing therapy to students, Integral Care’s school-based therapists are finding ways to still meet children and youth where they are and provide crucial support.


Funding from House Bill 13 supports our school-based counseling program, critical to supporting our children and youth in the time of COVID-19. Integral Care therapists currently see approximately 50% of children and youth in person (masked, 6 feet apart, with a plexiglass barrier between them). Therapists see the other 50% virtually.


Social distancing guidelines and virtual therapy do pose unique challenges for student and therapist. One such challenge involves play. Engaging in play is a technique that therapists use to connect with children. According to Program Manager Samantha Plevney, “We’ve found innovative ways to continue to play. In person, we can’t play Connect 4 anymore, but we can play tic-tac toe on the plexiglass barrier. And, while engagement with a child is easier in person, we’ve found creative ways to maintain kids’ attention and connect virtually.”


While online therapy for students has its drawbacks, Mrs. Plevney reports one big benefit to virtual sessions – increased engagement with the family. Getting parents, guardians and siblings all on campus at the same time for a family session can be difficult. It’s a different story when everyone’s at home.


Our school-based therapists aren’t only assisting students. We’ve provided 5 support groups for teachers during COVID-19 as well.


Integral Care offers school-based counseling on 37 campuses in Del Valle ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Manor ISD and East Austin College Prep Academy. We serve all grade levels to help ensure the children of Travis County have the skills and resources they need to thrive.


If a child or youth you know is experiencing loneliness, fear, anxiety or depression, free resources are available.


  • Integral Care’s 24/7 Crisis Helpline can be reached at 512-472-4357.
  • Crisis Text Line is a particularly good resource for teens, who prefer texting to talking on the phone. Text TX to 741-741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7.
  • LGBTQIA+ individuals can connect with the Trevor Project Trevor Lifeline 24/7. Call 866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678.

Join Us! First-Ever VIRTUAL Central Texas African American Family Support Conference & Yes to Best Youth Summit

We will not let this pandemic stop us from bringing you another year of the longest running conference of its kind – focused on mental health, substance usedisorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities in the African American community. We’re excited to host the 21st annual conference online this year.



The conference brings together individuals, families, faith leaders, health professionals, educators and advocates to explore health solutions, foster relationships, reduce stigma and increase access to health care. Professionals will find a variety of CEUs to boost knowledge and enhance professional development. The cost for professionals has been reduced to $75 this year. Individuals with lived experience and family member cost is $15. Community member cost is $25. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the cost.


We look forward to seeing you virtually February 3-5, and February 6 for the free Yes to Best Youth Summit (#Y2B), a mental health and wellness summit for the youth of ages 14-24. This summit brings together youth (particularly those of color) to discuss pertinent topics and challenges they may face. The summit also provides resources and practical tips to help them live their best lives.


Please spread the word about these events to your colleagues, clients, friends and family.



What’s New at Integral Care

  • Austin City Council approved a resolution to support a partnership between Integral Care, Downtown Austin Community Court and the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) to provide expanded behavioral health resources for individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • A big thank you to all of the donors who gave to the Integral Care Foundation’s Year End Campaign. We raised $36,250 to help ensure that people served by Integral Care can reach their full potential and thrive.
  • In partnership with Central Texas Food Bank, we opened the doors to a food pantry for TAOS permanent supportive housing residents. We hope to open the food pantry to clinic clients and other Integral Care supported housing teams in the future.
  • Integral Care’s Winter Well-being Toolkit is full of innovative and fun ideas to stay connected and support your mental health – including 8 simple steps to improve happiness and tips for fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Help a neighbor experiencing homelessness this winter. Create a Winter Care Package to help keep someone warm and safe. Create a Hygiene Kit that includes the essential items we all need for personal care. Donate $27 for a Monthly Phone Plan that keeps someone virtually connected to the care they need to rebuild their health and well-being.


December 2020: Supporting Your Mental Health This Winter

November 2020: How do we rebuild health and well-being during a pandemic?

October 2020: With Collaboration Comes Innovation

September 2020: Success Stories of Recovery and Suicide Prevention

August 2020: A Back to School Season Like Never Before

July 2020: Minority Health Disparities & COVID-19

June 2020: Stronger Together

May 2020: Surviving and Thriving During Uncertain Times

April 2020: Persevering During COVID-19

March 2020: Collaborations and Initiatives to Improve Health for the IDD Population

February 2020:Solutions to Health and Health Care Disparities

January 2020: Sucicide Prevention a Local Effort

December 2019: A Year of Thriving Care & Collaboration

November 2019: Teamwork and Collaboration Impact Homelessness in Travis County

October 2019:Making Strides for World Mental Health

September 2019: Taking Steps to Recovery Support

August 2019: Working Together for Child & Youth Mental Health

July 2019: Legislative Wrap-Up – Some Bipartisan Wins for Healthcare

June 2019: Strengthening Access for Veterans and the Entire Military Family

May 2019: Women and Mental Health

April 2019: Legislative Session Status Report

March 2019: Making Opportunities for Recovery More Accessible

February 2019: Recovery is Possible

January 2019: Stronger Outcomes Through Collaboration

December 2018: Looking ahead to the 86th Texas Legislature

November 2018: How Tech is Changing the Face of Mental Health

October 2018: A Few Questions Could Help Save a Life

September 2018: Anyone Can Save a Life

August 2018: A Milestone Moment

July 2018: Equity in Mental Health Care for All

June 2018: Expanding Services for Veterans

May 2018: Your Mental Health Toolkit

April 2018: Time of Terror Calls for Increased Emotional Support

March 2018: Stopping the cycle of incarceration for individuals with mental illness

February 2018: Equity in mental healthcare for everyone

January 2018 : Improving Mental Health Through Partnership & Collaboration

December 2017: Strength Through Community

November 2017 : Healthy Lifestyles Improve Well-Being

October 2017 : National Child Health Day

September 2017 : Strengthening Families and Communities