a monthly newsletter from Integral Care [printfriendly]

August: A Back to School Season Like Never Before

A Message From Our CEO


A new school year can cause feelings of apprehension for children and youth. Going back to school this fall will look, and certainly feel, different than ever before – likely creating more feelings of uneasiness. Even if a student isn’t anxious, their parent likely is, impacting the overall feelings about the coming year. Given the current environment and the lack of certainty, how can we support our children to build resilience and well-being? A healthy parent, guardian and/or family is a child’s foundation for well-being. As important as it is to support our children’s mental health amidst the uncertainty, paying attention to our own mental health must be a priority. Parents, teachers and service providers need to be aware of the stress and anxiety they may be experiencing during these challenging times. We’ve compiled a list of resources, groups and webinars to help support the adults who provide a critical foundation for the youngest in our community.


Since the start of COVID-19 and the most recent racial injustices, many people have witnessed behavioral changes in their children. Increased irritability or anger, excessive worry or sadness, changes in sleep or appetite, or socially isolating and withdrawing from others are typical signs that your child is grappling with stress, anxiety and maybe depression. While the stress and anxiety may be situational, we know that 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 1 in 5 youth ages 13 to 18 has a diagnosable mental health need. Right now, it is especially important for parents to tune in to how their children are doing. Early identification and help can change a life for the better by jump starting recovery. Even with the challenges of COVID-19, mental health care is readily available.


Summer virtual group project supplies

If you are concerned about your child, reach out to your pediatrician or connect with a mental health professional. Integral Care’s Child and Family Services (CFS) is providing intake appointments, counseling, psychiatric and wraparound team services through telehealth. When needed, face-to-face visits are available. This summer, Integral Care therapists are running 24 virtual groups with elementary, middle and high school students. The groups provide opportunities to engage socially and decrease loneliness, while building coping skills and self-esteem. In addition to supporting children, we’re offering support for parents and teachers. Our support groups (in both English and Spanish) help parents navigate parenting during a pandemic, and teachers navigate the stress of adjustments in how we connect and educate. CFS is also providing teachers with virtual suicide prevention training and orientation to our services before school starts.


No matter what this fall has in store for us, Integral Care is committed to helping the children and youth of Austin-Travis County access the mental health supports they need to reach their full potential. Just like we need experts to build a house, mental health experts can help your family with the skills and resources needed to thrive – at all stages of life.


David Evans
Chief Executive Officer



Integral Care continues to provide services – mostly through phone and video – but face-to-face services are available. Federal and state declarations officially extended the telehealth and telephonic service allowance through October 23, 2020. This extension will remain in effect unless the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services ends the public health emergency earlier. Integral Care continues to prepare for a phased approach to fully reopening in-person services, which will be a hybrid model of face-to-face and virtual client care. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, things can quickly change. To that end, an October 23rd re-open is not set in stone. Integral Care will remain flexible to best meet the needs of our clients and staff, while following Austin Public Health and CDC guidelines. As always, the health and safety of our clients, staff and the community is of utmost importance. For more information about Integral Care’s current COVID-19 operations, click here.


School-Based Counseling: Mental Health Care Where Children and Youth Are


Mental health issues impact all of us, including the youngest members of our community. School-based counseling is vital for early intervention and prevention. With school time moving to virtual education, counseling services are provided through telehealth. Usually, services are provided directly on campus, allowing school staff to quickly refer students to this easy-to-access program. School-based counseling helps identify potential mental health issues early and gives students the tools they need to work through emotional challenges. Being located on campus reduces the stigma of seeing a counselor and students even bring their friends when they see someone needing help. Parents are able to provide their children access to extra emotional support without having to leave work, reducing absenteeism from school and negative impacts on the family.


Integral Care provides year-round, school-based counseling across 3 Independent School Districts (ISDs) – Del Valle, Manor and Pflugerville – as well as East Austin College Prep, a public charter school. Our 30 licensed therapists provide immediate and ongoing emotional support to students through assessment, therapy and embedded case management services. They also collaborate with teachers, school staff, administrators and parents to improve the health and well-being of our students.


As soon as school closed in March, we began providing services virtually, using the video conference platform TEAMS. We kept the momentum going over the summer with our 24 summer groups for children and youth in elementary through high school beginning in June. Thanks to support from the Integral Care Foundation, students have received art supplies to do activities together such as painting rocks with inspirational sayings and planting succulents. The groups help students practice social skills and connect with others during this summer of social isolation. According to Stacy Spencer, Practice Manager of School-Based Systems of Care, our virtual services have been a success.

Luckily, kids are tech savvy. Schools provided Chrome Books to many kids who didn’t have access to a home device. It’s obviously better to be in person, but some kids have done better in telehealth, especially those who are really shy. That’s been a nice surprise.


Healthy families are the cornerstone of a strong community. Integral Care and our collaborators at Pflugerville, Manor, Del Valle ISDs and East Austin Prep are committed to helping Travis County families build their health and well-being so they can thrive and meet their full potential. If you or your child are experiencing anxiety or any signs of a mental health issue, do not be afraid to ask for help. Child and Family Services at Integral Care can be accessed at 512-472-4357.


To support our children’s mental health, one of the most helpful things we can do is model calm, confident behavior. An anxious parent/guardian can mean an anxious child. Whether you’re a parent/guardian, teacher or mental health professional, we suggest some go-to webinars, groups and resources to help you shore up your well-being during COVID-19 and beyond.


Families & Teachers:

  • Neuroscience-based regulation skills for back to school anxiety: Join two former AISD Counselors of the Year for a NAMI-Central Texas webinar on August 13, 7– 8pm.
  • When to seek help for your child and what first steps to take: View the National Institute of Mental Health’s guide, with a downloadable fact sheet in English and Spanish.
  • Groups for adults and teens coping with COVID-19: Austin Child Guidance Center offers wonderful 6-week groups for adults and teens, such as Coping with Stress and Parenting During COVID 19: Strategies and Support for Caregivers. Check out their event calendar to sign up. Series costs are $300. A sliding fee scale price may be available based on income and household size.
  • Cyberbullying info and steps to stop it: UNICEF’s guide to cyberbullying is a helpful resource.
  • Going back to school during COVID-19: Child Mind Institute’s experts have written articles about how to set priorities this year, tips for parent-teacher communication and more.
  • Help connecting to local resources: Call 2-1-1.
  • If a family you know is food insecure: While schools are closed, School Meal Finder locates the school nearest your address providing meals across the U.S.


  • Tips for professionals coping with stress and compassion fatigue: Download SAMHSA’s fact sheet with proven mind-body techniques that promote relaxation.
  • Substance Use and COVID-19: Hazelden Betty Ford’s addiction and prevention experts maintain a library of webinars around youth and adult substance use for those of you helping families during this time of excessive stress. They offer insights and practical strategies for your practice.
  • For emerging issues around children and families in Austin-Travis County: Join representatives from local organizations and schools for virtual meetings held by Kids Living Well. Kids Living Well is the planning body for children’s mental health in Travis County. The group also serves as a place for networking and advocacy. They hold meetings the last Thursday of the month from 9:00 – 10:30am. To join the August 27th meeting, contact
  • For professionals responding to COVID-19 school mental health: Check out the vast array of webinars and resources from the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network. Access past webinars by clicking on the registration button.

We hope you find this list helpful, and if there are other resources you’d like us to know about, please email us at

What’s New at Integral Care

  • Your experiences and ideas can inform the 2020 update to the Travis County Plan for Children’s Mental Health. Kids Living Well invites parents and youth to complete a survey about mental health and substance use services in our community.
  • We are pleased to announce that Horace (H. Ed) Edward Calahan has been reappointed by Travis County for a 2nd term on the Integral Care Board of Trustees. Pastor Calahan is a vital member of the Board. It’s an honor to have him for another term.
  • Thank you to the All Together ATX Fund, a collaboration between United Way for Greater Austin and Austin Community Foundation, for the $20,000 grant to support mental health in our community. We are sincerely grateful for all you’ve done during this pandemic.
  • SAMHSA has awarded Integral Care continuation funding for two programs: The Mental Health Awareness Training for Service Providers & Families of Armed Service Personnel & Veterans will receive $125,000, and the Clinical High Risk Psychosis program will receive $400,000. Read more here.


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