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Opponents of latest AR state tax cuts say they benefit wealthy Arkansans; Julian Assange agrees to a plea deal that would allow him to avoid imprisonment in US; Tech-based carbon-capture projects make headway in local government; NV nonprofit calls Biden's student debt initiatives economic justice.

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Charges against fake electors in Nevada are dismissed, Milwaukee officials get ready to expect the unexpected at the RNC convention, and the Justice Department says Alaska is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

For Central Texans, libraries can be a mental health resource

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Monday, April 8, 2024   

This is National Library Week, honoring the many roles that libraries play in their communities.

In central Texas, a pilot program is using the public library system to expand mental health services in rural areas.

Residents in four counties can get assistance at their local public library through the Libraries for Health program.

Trained mental health peer specialists evaluate clients and refer them to clinics for additional help if it's needed.

The program is funded through the St. David's Foundation, working to advance health equity in Central Texas.

The foundation's Senior Program Officer Abena Asante said the initiative works in tandem with the mental health community.

"It's in no way taking the place of clinical-directed psychologists," said Asante. "It's just one community response in addressing the lack of mental wellness resources in rural communities."

Asante said libraries are trusted and accessible gathering places for people living in rural areas. The libraries tailor programs to meet specific local needs based on feedback from the residents.

Data collected during the 3.5-year pilot program will be used to evaluate its success. The nonprofit Via Hope trains the peer specialists who work in the libraries.

Dr. Sandra Smith, vice president of Via Hope, said the staffers use their own life experiences to help them relate to the clients.

"They have to have had a mental health challenge at some point in their life," said Smith. "We don't ask them any specifics about that, we don't ask diagnoses - it's a self-disclosure."

The Libraries for Health program operates in eight libraries in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays and Williamson counties. If successful, it could be implemented in other parts of the state.





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