Mehle Taylor, 10, drew a picture of Rogelio Torres, one of her close friends who was brutally killed in last month’s school shooting massacre, wearing his favorite red-and-black jacket.
Mehle told her mother how much she misses the boy who had been her “bus buddy” since preschool.
Quintanilla-Taylor has not yet sought mental health counseling for Mehle, despite her concerns that she may develop post-traumatic stress disorder or fear returning to school. For the time being, she has forbidden her daughter from watching the news or attending memorials or funerals. She decided to let Mehle deal with things her own way and at her own pace.
That’s a tall order for a community in a state that ranks last in overall access to mental health care, according to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report.
Mental health organizations are putting together a package of services to help those in Uvalde who need it. However, there have been hiccups and snags along the way.
There is concern that what is being offered is not being put together as quickly or efficiently as it could be, and that it is being put together without regard for the community it serves: Many residents are low-income, and some may have transportation issues or are primarily Hispanic. Many people are not used to seeking therapy and are skeptical of those who do.
Quintanilla-Taylor doubted that many people would use mental health services and questioned their long-term availability.
Eulalio “Lalo” Diaz said he can still hear phone rings from the slain children’s backpacks in Room 112 and from Irma Garcia’s desk phone, who had tried to protect them.
By that time, parents and families were calling “in the hopes that their children would respond.” Knowing they wouldn’t hit me hard,” said Diaz, the Uvalde County justice of the peace who was on duty when a gunman entered Robb Elementary School through a back door with a high-powered rifle and began shooting.
Diaz was tasked with identifying the deceased and informing parents.
Diaz’s cousin and Uvalde native Monica Muoz Martinez discovered days after the shooting that Diaz and some families had not been contacted about counseling. She started by following through on Abbott’s promise and calling the Uvalde Mental Health Support Line, a 24-hour hotline.
When Martinez called the mental health hotline for help that Memorial Day weekend, she encountered a frustrating and time-consuming process. Following Martinez’s calls, Diaz was added to a list of first responders who may require counseling.
“It was not beneficial to me,” Martinez stated. According to the historian, author, and University of Texas at Austin professor, she was transferred between phone lines and given contradictory information about walk-in counseling services.
Martinez requested a list of recommended therapists after being told she needed to contact a therapist. She was instructed to contact her insurance company and was warned that she “would have to pay for individual counseling,” despite the governor’s promotion of free services.
Diaz has since met virtually with a therapist in Austin. He stated that speaking with someone who is not connected to the community has been beneficial. According to him, his family has also received assistance.
While there was “chaos” at first, Diaz said there appeared to be progress in getting help in place for those who sought it. He thinks it’s a mistake to put the resiliency center in a building off Main Street, where some people might not have enough privacy.
They were either three rooms down or teachers, and they still haven’t taken their children.”
The countywide government body, the Uvalde County Commissioners, voted Thursday to purchase a building to house the Uvalde Together Resiliency Center, which will serve as a hub for long-term services such as crisis counseling and behavioral health care for survivors.
Abbott set aside $5 million for the center, which is currently housed at the county fairgrounds.