(CENTERVILLE, TX) — The Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Rural Health Policy has awarded Leon County a three-year grant of approximately $540,000 to develop a network and infrastructure for increasing access to specialty care and mental health services for county residents, and assistance will be provided by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.

The project, which begins May 1, represents a broad partnership of community agencies coming together to address the problem of many health needs and too few resources for residents.

“This grant has been a godsend,” said Leon County Judge Byron Ryder. “It will definitely improve the health of the residents of Leon County, both now and in the future. This is something we have needed for years, and we are now able to provide a sort of one-stop shop.”

The Brazos Valley Health Partnership (BVHP), staffed by the Center for Community Health Development at the HSC-SRPH, is a regional planning and coordinating body comprised of representatives of health and human services and communities throughout the region.

A health resource commission and community health center were established earlier in Leon County through a grant to BVHP. Together, the BVHP and commission have sought to increase access to specialty care and mental health services for county residents. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports the county has been a Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area since 2002 and Mental Health Professional Shortage Area since 2003.

The Leon County network will develop activities to benefit all county residents. Several of the proposed activities are based on those developed through BVHP. By increasing access to specialty care and mental health services, the ultimate goal is to improve productivity, children’s school performance, the residents’ ability to manage chronic disease and limit disability from unmanaged conditions.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell