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Home » Community » For two decades, Bluebonnet Trails has provided mental health care services close to home
Bluebonnet Trails Community Service executive director Andrea Richardson (left) says retired Burnet County Judge Martin McLean has been an instrumental leader in establishing the program as well as advocating for it over the years as a board member. McLean recently stepped down from the Bluebonnet Trails Community Service board but believes it’s in good hands. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — Martin McLean admitted that his initial reluctance 20 years ago to opening community centers for Bluebonnet Trails Community Services missed the mark. But as he steps down from the organization’s board that he helped bring to fruition, McLean sees the community locations as a major part of Bluebonnet Trails’s success in helping people.
“I was wrong about that. These community centers have been so important,” he said.
Bluebonnet Trails Community Services is celebrating 20 years of helping people and communities through a wide range of mental health services. The organization serves eight counties with a population of more than 800,000 people.
Executive Director Andrea Richardson said that while McLean might have missed the mark on the community centers, he was right when it came to seeing the need for Bluebonnet Trails.
She joined the organization as executive director in 2007, though she worked for Bluebonnet Trails for a time under the previous executive director. Even though she wasn’t part of the organization when it started, Richardson said it was people like McLean who recognized the need for mental health services in rural areas of Central Texas that have touched the lives of so many people.
McLean first realized the need for mental health services well before Bluebonnet Trails opened. He served as the city of Marble Falls municipal judge for a number of years followed by several years as the Burnet County judge. In both offices, McLean recognized the struggles people with mental health issues faced as well as their families and the community.
In 1996, then six counties began laying the framework for Bluebonnet Trails with each of the member counties appointing a board member.
While some people in Burnet County believed McLean would make a good board member, he didn’t think he had the time to dedicate himself to the young organization. At the time, he was county judge, which included both administrative duties and a criminal court docket. He turned to Lewis Reioux to fill the Burnet County slot on the board.
“He did it for, I guess, three years,” McLean said.
Then cancer struck Reioux, and he told McLean he could no longer stay on the board. When McLean asked if he had any thoughts on who to take his place, Reioux pointed across the desk at McLean and answered, “You.”
McLean joined the board in 1999. Richardson described him as a driving force on the board and a strong advocate for Bluebonnet Trails and the communities it serves.
Bluebonnet Trails provides a myriad of services focusing on mental health. The organization offers an autism program, family health care, behavioral health and substance abuse services, early childhood interventions, and intellectual and developmental disability programs.
Though Bluebonnet Trails Community Services stretches across eight counties now with Burnet County to the west and Gonzales County to the southeast, Richardson said it’s through community centers such as the McLean-Reioux Bluebonnet Trails Community Services building in Marble Falls that the staff really makes a difference.
The community centers hit three important marks: financial, clinical, and community. Richardson said placing services in each of the communities instead of having only one central facility allows her staff to spend more time in the places they serve.
That saves both time and money. Plus, she pointed out, just from a clinical approach, being in the community means the professional staff are where the people who need them are. While community centers serve as a base for the Bluebonnet Trails staff in places such as Burnet County, they aren’t tucked away in cubicles answering phones or waiting for people to come to them.
“They are out in the community going to homes, visiting with organizations and schools,” Richardson said.
McLean agreed that the community centers give Bluebonnet Trails staff an incredible reach into the community.
Which is the third side of the triangle: community.
It’s all about community, Richardson explained. Having community service centers allow staff to build relationships with other people and organizations in those areas and offer programs that meet their needs.
Over the years, with a presence in Burnet County, Bluebonnet Trails has built those relationships, which has led to innovative and needed programs.
“We have two great (school districts) here in Burnet County,” Richardson said. “We now have substance abuse programs in both of the school districts.”
Bluebonnet Trails also helped Burnet County Sheriff’s Office train a deputy who responds to mental health situations both in the jail and the community. Richardson pointed out that Burnet County and Bluebonnet Trails have developed jail diversion efforts for those people with mental health issues.
McLean said that’s a key initiative because, as a county judge, he recalled so many times when someone ended up in jail because they were struggling with mental health issues or might have simply forgotten to take their medication.
“That’s not good for anyone,” he said. “If we can identify those with (mental health issues) and get them the help they need … they don’t need to be in jail.”
It doesn’t even have to be something as complex as jail diversion. The Burnet County center is now a designated diaper bank because staff saw a need for families with babies with developmental issues. It can be tough enough to make ends meet for young families with healthy children, but when they’re raising a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities, the challenges are compounded. Something as simple as offering them a place to get diapers is a godsend.
It’s about being part of the community, McLean added.
Bluebonnet Trails doesn’t just deliver services, it over-delivers, McLean pointed out. The organization has a budget of $55 million, but the state only provides 33 percent of it. Left to state funding, Bluebonnet Trails would only be able to offer a limited amount of the services it currently does.
Digging up the other two-thirds, he said, comes from Richardson and her staff’s hard work.
“She does an amazing job,” McLean said of Richardson. “She goes out there and finds more money.”
Richardson said Bluebonnet Trails looks for grants and other funding sources. This allows Bluebonnet Trails to “over-serve” adults by about 150 percent of what is expected and children by about 200 percent of what is expected.
“You don’t know how important that is until you or someone you know needs these services,” McLean said.
Bluebonnet Trails clients and patients aren’t getting the minimum services, but much more, the retired county judge pointed out.
McLean attended his last Bluebonnet Trails board meeting in August as a sitting member. After 18 years on the board, he’s decided it’s time to step down and let someone else become Burnet County’s voice for the organization. Burnet County commissioners appointed former Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger to the board.
“They’re trading up,” McLean joked.
Richardson, however, wouldn’t let McLean get away with his modesty.
“You’ve been a big part of the board and Bluebonnet Trails,” she said. “We’re going to miss him.”
However, McLean promised to make the next board meeting to say goodbye to the other board members and staff.
“These are great people,” he said. “I’ll miss them, all of them.”
Bluebonnet Trails Community Services has a central call center (1-844-309-6385) to find out information about mental health and services. Bluebonnet Trails also has a crisis line (1-800-841-1255) that’s staff by trained professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone experiencing a crisis.
Go to bbtrails.org for more information and services Bluebonnet Trails provides. The Bluebonnet Trails area includes Burnet, Williamson, Lee, Bastrop, Fayette, Caldwell, Guadalupe, and Gonzales counties.