© 2021
In touch with the world ... at home on the High Plains
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Commissioners launch departmental reviews, boost mental health funding at schools

 Bexar County Courthouse
Brian Kirkpatrick
Bexar County Courthouse

Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai has launched a countywide departmental review to increase transparency and accountability and better serve taxpayers.

His proposal on Tuesday received the unanimous support of the commissioner's court.

Sakai took office in January after County Judge Nelson Wolff served more than two decades as his predecessor.

"As the new county judge presiding over a newly composed commissioner's court, I believe it is critical to look under the hood, so to speak, of each department and better understand how the engine is working."

The review will be headed by County Manager David Smith. Commissioners expect the county manager to deliver recommendations on policies, procedures, and protocols this spring.

Sakai said the review will examine the compilation of county agendas, the organization of work sessions, budget development, procurement, technology adaptation, and the expenditure of federal COVID relief funds.

The commissioners also praised county departments for getting much right as they approved the review.

In other action, commissioners on Tuesday allocated the last of millions of dollars of federal COVID relief funds to boost mental health services at local schools.

This final round of nearly $4 million went to the Comal, Judson, and Northeast School Districts.

Anthony Jarrett, the chief instruction officer at Northeast ISD, thanked commissioners for the funding.

"We're constantly working with children ... coming to us every day with an invisible backpack," he said. "And that backpack is filled with things that sometimes we can't see. But our goal is to have some upstream thinking and do things a little differently that is more proactive versus reactive so that we can intervene before the problem becomes so big that we can't handle it."

The countywide funding proposal was started by Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores and came in the wake of last May's school shooting in Uvalde. A total of 13 local school districts received the funding.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners:

  • Federal legislative agenda: Tabled action on the county's federal legislative program after Sakai said it failed to address in detail one of his top concerns: homeless veterans. The county will be represented in the San Antonio-Washington, D.C. delegation on March 27 to March 30 to lobby lawmakers and military leaders for their support on local concerns. The delegation will also be composed of San Antonio city representatives, local chamber of commerce officials and business leaders.
  • Broadband services: Approved negotiations with Spectrum to design, build, and provide internet broadband services to underserved areas of southwest and southeast Bexar County to help close the "digital divide" with other areas of the county.
  • State legislative program: Approved the state legislative program, which opposes efforts to diminish health care safety nets and close polling places on college campuses. It supports the creation of a third probate court for the county.
  • Mental health services: Approved a $250,000 study on the reuse of the former San Antonio State Hospital grounds for mental health services that could reduce the county jail population. It could offer on-site housing and wrap around services to treat inmates there instead of locking them up in the jail.
  • Substance abuse care: Heard an update on the distribution of opioid settlement funds to address local substance abuse issues. As much as $12 million is available for future distribution. County health officials also illustrated for commissioners how the recent distribution of $1.6 million from the fund has aided the community, including funding for the administration of the drug Narcan, which reversed more than 1,800 local overdoses in 2022 and during the first quarter of this year.
  • Student interns: Approved a student internship program with the Alamo Community College District that could place as many as 5,000 students in departments countywide.
  • Cesar Chavez March: Recognized with a proclamation Saturday's 10 a.m. Cesar Chavez March at Guadalupe and Brazos Streets on the West Side. The march to honor the late farm labor and civil rights leader is in its 27th year. For the first time, a trio of parade grand marshals will appear, newly appointed San Antonio City Councilwoman Rosie Castro, and her sons, former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro, and Congressman Joaquin Castro. Participants are encouraged to drop off canned goods for the San Antonio Food Bank at the march. VIA will offer free rides to the march from 8 to 10 a.m. from Lots B and C at the Alamodome. Return service to the dome will run until 2:30 p.m.
  • Celebrating Women's History Month: Recognized by proclamation Women's History Month and its national theme, "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories." In doing so, commissioners also presented County Clerk Lucy Adame-Clark with the 2023 Bexar County Pioneer Award. She is the first Latina and first woman ever elected to the post.

Copyright 2023 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Brian Kirkpatrick has been a journalist in Texas most of his life, covering San Antonio news since 1993, including the deadly October 1998 flooding, the arrival of the Toyota plant in 2003, and the base closure and realignments in 2005.