Our McKenna history began in 1953 with the opening of this community’s first hospital. The next 50 years brought change, expansion, and ultimately financial success and stability to the organization. In 2008, at the time of the sale of the hospital to the Christus San Rosa Health System, the board and staff of our newly formed foundation had little experience as a grant maker and knew there was much to learn. This realization shaped our early roles in the community as ones of convener, listener and partner.
From the beginning, we started asking a lot of questions and we maintain the same level of curiosity today. Which community needs are being met? Where are the gaps in resources? Do we have nonprofits operating with the capacity to meet those needs? Who needs to be part of our conversations? We engage community stakeholders- including nonprofit staff and board members, public leadership, school representatives, and faith-based providers- on a regular basis. While the education provided and ideas shared are successes in themselves, the planning and goal setting that come from these conversations provide an invaluable path to positive outcomes.
Our first formal community convening was around mental and behavioral health with the goals of identifying needs, gaps in services, and ultimately a list of funding priorities to improve the system of care. Beginning in October 2014 and culminating in February 2015, about 30 nonprofit agencies as well as city, county, and school officials created a community vision and goals:
We envision unfettered access to quality, community-based mental health services throughout Comal County for families, children, and adults. We expect that services will reflect evidence-based practices whenever possible. In order to accomplish this vision, we intend to work together in multiple ways to:
— Promote community education and prevention.
— Develop a comprehensive continuum of locally available services that address the needs of the community.
— Expand and improve access to services for the outlying communities.
Over the past decade, local mental and behavioral wellness opportunities have grown extensively due to dedicated and passionate service providers and their collaborative partnerships alongside investments by McKenna and other funders. The McKenna Foundation board has committed $6.5 million in mental and behavioral health funding over the past 10 years to help meet the needs of our neighbors. Highlights of that investment toward new mental health infrastructure in our community include:
— Creation of a Mobile Crisis Outreach Team that responds to mental crisis anywhere 24/7.
— Creation of Mental Advocacy Partners: mapcomal.org.
— The first nonprofit mental health clinic in Canyon Lake operated by Hill Country MHDD.
— Major building improvements for the New Braunfels 24 Club.
— Therapeutic counseling for students through Communities in Schools.
— Seeding the operation and new facility for RecoveryWerks! for teens and young adults with substance use disorder and their families.
— A new facility for River City Advocacy and Counseling Center.
We are proud to have been part of the good work of so many, whose enthusiasm set us on a journey toward mental wellness in the community.
Alice Jewell is the Chief Executive Officer for the McKenna Foundation whose mission is to advance the well-being of the New Braunfels community. She has been with the Foundation since its inception in 2008, and with the McKenna organization since 2006. Prior to this role, Alice served as the Foundation’s Executive Director, Director of McKenna Children’s Museum and Director of McKenna Events Center. She oversees all aspects of the grant development process, as well as the Foundation’s strategic planning and community collaborations. Alice received a BA in Communication from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.