The Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST) is proud to launch OST CARES. This initiative aims to enhance mental health support and awareness within Texas out of school time (OST), recognizing the unique potential of OST programs in implementing promotion and prevention strategies to better support the well-being of youth.

Direct service OST programs that are selected to take part in OST CARES will receive comprehensive staff training, ongoing support through a community of practice, and a participation stipend (approximately $15,000–$30,000) to implement mental health awareness and prevention activities with youth in their program.

TXPOST is currently reviewing interest surveys for the first OST CARES cohort and will notify all prospective participants by July 1, 2024. The interest survey for the second cohort is expected to open on/around August 1, 2024. Please check back then or sign up for TXPOST’s newsletter to receive updates. If you have any questions or need additional guidance, please contact OST CARES Project Director Jenny McClure at OSTCARES@txpost.org.

In recent years, more young people are increasingly struggling with anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental health issues. Experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have declared children’s mental health “a national emergency.” In Texas:

  • More than 350,000 young people experienced a major depressive episode in the last year, and of those, 73%— the worst rate in the country—did not receive mental health services.
  • 22% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021.
  • Over half a million children ages 3-17 experienced depression or anxiety in 2020, a 23% increase from 2016. Black and Latino children experienced the largest increases in depression and anxiety.

Leading authorities recognize the power of out of school time programs to support kids’ mental health. OST programs are well-positioned to contribute to this effort by providing valuable opportunities to support youth holistically, foster resilience, and create nurturing environments beyond the classroom setting.

OST CARES was created to meet the requirements authorized by General Appropriations Act (GAA), Article III, Rider 88, 88th Texas Legislature and administered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

The OST CARES initiative also complements TEA’s Stronger OST initiative, which was created as the result of a supplemental appropriation to the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program in The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA). Together, OST CARES and Stronger OST aim to strengthen out of school time program quality across Texas, with a focus on supporting programs in implementing mental health supports. Opportunities for collaboration between Stronger OST grantees and OST CARES participants will be facilitated throughout the implementation of both initiatives.

The goals of OST CARES

Community Partnerships: Partner with local and statewide mental health providers to offer mental health services in OST settings;

Awareness and Education: Promote mental health awareness programs and education to identify youth in need and provide early intervention to serve the whole child and family;

Resources and Referrals: Establish a network of resources and referrals for equitable access for students and families in need of additional support;

Emotional Support: Foster an emotionally supportive environment to reduce the mental burden placed on under-resourced families as a result of the recent pandemic; and

Self-Care and Coping Strategies: Promote self-care practices and teach students effective coping strategies for managing stress and emotions.

Program Guidelines and Interest Survey

88. Mental Health Services in Out of School Time. It is the intent of the Legislature that included in amounts appropriated above in Strategy A.2.1, Statewide Educational Programs, is $2,500,000 from General Revenue funds in each fiscal year of the 2024-25 biennium to fund the Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST) to implement mental health programs in community-based out of school time (OST) and statewide intermediary infrastructure to support OST programs and professionals.

Funds are appropriated for the following purposes:

  1. to promote mental health, identify youth in need, and provide early intervention to serve the whole child and family;
  2. to partner with local and statewide mental health providers to offer mental health services in OST settings;
  3. to aim to reduce the mental burden placed on under-resourced families as a result of the recent pandemic; and
  4. to establish community partnerships to ensure equitable access to education and promotion of mental health awareness.

Out of school time settings are ideally suited for mental health promotion and prevention strategies, providing a supportive environment for youth development outside traditional school hours.

  • Promotion: In this context, promotion refers to activities and initiatives designed to enhance positive mental health, resilience, and well-being among youth. It involves fostering a positive and inclusive atmosphere, building life skills, and promoting healthy relationships.
  • Prevention: Prevention strategies focus on proactively addressing factors that may contribute to mental health challenges. This includes awareness campaigns, skill-building programs, and creating a safe space that reduces the risk of mental health issues.
  • Community-based nonprofit out of school time (OST) providers in Texas are eligible to participate.
    • Local educational agencies (LEAs), including independent school districts (ISDs), open-enrollment charter schools, and regional education service centers (ESCs) are not eligible.
    • Current recipients of the Texas 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grants are not eligible for this program. 21st CCLC grantees already had the opportunity to receive mental health resources and support through the Stronger OST grant program from the Texas Education Agency. The OST CARES initiative aims to provide similar resources to other organizations that did not have access to that prior funding opportunity.
  • Providers must serve youth in grades K-12 during out of school time hours (before school, after school, weekends, summer, and/or holiday breaks).

TXPOST will offer opportunities to participate in this program through three to four cohorts over the next two years. The timeline for the first cohort is as follows:

  • Interest survey deadline: May 31, 2024
  • Participation notification: July 1, 2024
  • Program training and implementation for the first cohort: August 2024 through July 2025

Specific dates for subsequent cohort interest surveys and implementation timelines will be announced at a later date.

  • Participating organizations will be expected to identify and designate key team members responsible for participating in professional development, implementing mental health activities, and collecting and reporting related program data.
  • Designated direct service staff will be expected to:
    • Attend the required training series provided by TXPOST’s mental health partner, which consists of five (5) 90-minute virtual training sessions every other month.
    • Attend, contribute to, and actively engage in five (5) bi-monthly 90-minute virtual community of practice meetings hosted by TXPOST. This learning community is designed to foster collaboration, share knowledge, and support the transfer of positive mental health services and activities in order to promote mental health through technical assistance and coaching.
    • Implement mental health awareness and prevention activities in community-based out of school time (OST) programs. Apply learnings from required training and communities of practice to implement evidence-based mental health promotion and prevention practices in youth programming.
    • Complete all pre/post and/or additional program surveys.
  • Designated team members responsible for data collection and reporting will be expected to:
    • Incorporate youth and family survey items related to mental health into existing evaluation tools or administer new evaluations. Survey items will be provided by TXPOST before the end of program implementation. Participating organizations are expected to share all data for TXPOST-provided survey items.
    • Provide formal and informal progress reports throughout program implementation. At most, participating organizations are expected to provide two (2) formal reports—a mid-cohort and end-of-cohort report.

Participating organizations will agree to collect data and report on the following in addition to other relevant program data, as requested:

  • Number of sites that received support through OST CARES
  • Number of youth who received support through OST CARES
  • Number of adult family members who received supplemental support through OST CARES
  • Pre and post surveys completed by program youth
  • Pre and post surveys completed by program staff
  • Staff attendance at trainings
  • Pre and post surveys completed by staff for each training
  • Staff attendance and participation in follow-up community of practice activities
  • Surveys completed by families
  • Description of mental health activities or supports provided to program youth
  • Description of mental health activities or supports provided to families

The final participation stipend amounts will be determined based on the level of interest and need and will range from $15,000 to $30,000 per participating organization. Prospective participating organizations are encouraged to consider their resources and staff capacity accordingly.

Please note that this is not a traditional grant program. Each selected participating organization receiving a stipend may use the funds flexibly to support activities that promote and prevent mental health within their out of school time program. While TXPOST suggests utilizing the stipend funds for expenses like staff compensation to attend required training, data collection efforts, or direct mental health programming costs, recipients have discretion in determining how they spend their stipends.

Additional guidance will be provided in participation agreements for selected organizations.

  • Click here for a PDF of the interest survey questions that we recommend you preview prior to submitting your interest survey; responses cannot be saved, and the survey must be completed in one session.
  • Click here to open the interest survey in a new window when you are ready to complete it. The deadline to submit your interest survey is May 31, 2024.
  • This interest survey is intended to be completed by the program director, organizational leader, or someone with a comprehensive understanding of your organization’s programming, data collection practices, and staff training strategies.
  • The interest survey should take approximately 20–30 minutes to complete.

All submitted interest surveys will undergo a review process by TXPOST. All submissions may undergo an additional review process by TXPOST partners with expertise in mental health, out of school time programming, and youth development.

  • Priority for selection into the first cohort will be given to organizations that demonstrate:
    • Organizational capacity and readiness to effectively implement OST CARES program components:
      1. Ability to designate and support key staff in completing the required training series
      2. Commitment to active participation in the community of practice meetings
      3. Readiness to integrate mental health promotion strategies into existing programs and practices
      4. Adequate resources and infrastructure to carry out program activities
    • Demonstrated Need: A significant need for mental health resources and support in the community they serve. Preference will be given to organizations that serve geographic areas and/or populations with the highest level of mental health needs and lowest level of existing resources.
    • Programmatic Diversity: Priority will be placed on creating a diverse pool of participating organizations that reflect the diversity of Texas, with an emphasis on reaching youth in under-resourced communities.
  • Prospective participating organizations will be notified of selection by July 1, 2024, for the first cohort. Specific stipend amounts will be determined based on the number of qualified interest surveys submitted.
  • If you are not selected for the first cohort, please note that you will have additional opportunities for participation in future cohorts. Additional details will be forthcoming this summer.
  • Contact OST CARES Project Director Jenny McClure at OSTCARES@txpost.org with any questions.
  • All prospective participating organizations, whether selected for a cohort or not, will have opportunities to participate in the virtual communities of practice and to receive additional mental health programming resources and quality improvement support at no cost.