Mar 14, 2023
By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
A group of young students sat on the stage together during the 2022 Texoma Behavioral Health Leadership Team conference and spoke to concerns about the overuse of technology, the need for early support, and the future of mental health among youth. The effects of technology were one issue at the forefront of topics during the annual conference, along with the mental health challenges ministers were helping address with their congregants.
Officially established in 2017 after a few years of informal meetings, the Texoma Behavioral Health Leadership Team (TBHLT) has created an environment and network to bring together individuals who can help foster the mental health and well-being of the community.
TBHLT was an idea born in the conference room of the Texoma Health Foundation (THF). Coby Chase with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and THF’s Board Chairman at the time, Brett Graham, along with CEO Michelle Lemming, dreamed together, and drew up designs. After the meeting, the team formed an ad-hoc group of leaders to finalize the creation of the TBHLT.
“The ad-hoc committee was a power-house of leaders in mental health”, said Michelle. “At every meeting, members returned with action items complete, and ready to design a permanent hub for all-things mental health for Grayson County - the TBHLT. A champion in mental health for our community, Gail Utter, agreed to use her existing 501c3, NEWCO, to host the group and the rest is history.”
Coming from 30 years at Austin College and serving as VP of student affairs, Tim Millerick had frontline knowledge of the struggles among students and staff in the area of mental health. When asked to come on as director of TBHLT, he accepted.
“The range of mental and behavioral health issues we are facing today in the world, and here in Texoma, are sizeable and growing,” Tim says. “Almost no one goes through their day without knowing or being exposed to someone who is dealing with such issues. We’re trying to create a situation where we’re all working together to address these issues successfully. Throughout Texoma, there are wonderful people working hard in their worlds. We are recognizing their efforts and bringing them together so we have the best in the room to talk about solutions.”
At TBHLT’s annual conference, there are representatives from educational institutions, law enforcement, government organizations, business and industry, health practitioners, hospitals, and state agencies. They come together and discuss issues in the community to begin creating solutions.
“Folks enjoy the networking,” Tim says.
TBHLT’s largest project at this time is a jail diversion program. The leadership team, made of 25-30 stakeholders, is also working on access to care issues, supporting legislation, and piloting initiatives.
As the community's hub for mental health and wellness, the conference remains TBHLT’s core activity. It is supported in part by the Texoma Health Foundation.
The ideas shared at the conference help guide the direction of TBHLT moving forward.
“It sets us up as an organization as we move beyond that day,” Tim says. “We are very blessed to have so many attendees and a number of sponsors that have supported us consistently. The conference is a big part of who we are.”