The Resource Connection is a client-centered one-stop center of health, education, employment and human services. It is located on a nearly 300 acre campus in the southeastern part of Fort Worth, with regular bus services and an intra-campus shuttle service. A comprehensive service delivery system provides more than 39 different programs and services for hundreds of clients daily.
Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the Resource Connection not only co-locates a wide variety of agencies and services in a campus environment, but provides the infrastructure for a future automation network for case management, information and referral that will facilitate customers’ access to various services.
Tarrant County serves as the lead agency among the collaboration and provides administrative management and security services for our tenant agencies 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week . The Resource Connection operates as an Enterprise Fund and is self-supporting. Revenue is generated through occupancy costs and from the rental of the Aquatic Center, Conference Center and meeting room space.
The Resource Connection is a mecca for public/private collaboration, cross-agency cooperation and service integration. The mission: The Resource Connection is a one stop center that, through partner agencies, connects persons with education, employment, health or human service needs with available resources.
The 347,935 square feet of office space in the 16 buildings that had once been part of the Fort Worth State School complex now house over 39 different agencies, programs or services.
In addition to the intangible benefits of a collaborative environment, the Resource Connection offers other more tangible benefits:
Originally, Tarrant County paid Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (TXMHMR) $1,000,000 for 101.95 acres of the Fort Worth State School property and immediately invested $2.3 million in renovations. About 10 years later, Tarrant County purchased the remaining 190 acres surrounding the Resource Connection from the TXMHMR.
The Resource Connection operates as an Enterprise Fund, a self-supporting entity of Tarrant County government. Every agency pays rent, including Tarrant County departments. Rental income pays expenses. Any surplus is reinvested in capital improvements. The FY16 budget is a little over $3.2 million.
Each tenant agency (including Tarrant County departments) is responsible for the cost of renovating their space. All renovations are provided or coordinated by Tarrant County Facilities Department.
Tarrant County is the lead agency in this collaboration of agencies. The Resource Connection is a department within Tarrant County government. The director of the Resource Connection reports to the county administrator.
Oversight for the Resource Connection is provided by a seven-member advisory board that represents the original anchor agencies. Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks serves as the chair. Two members represent Tarrant County. There is one representative from each of the following tenant agencies: MHMRTC, JPS Health Network, Senior Citizen Services, Workforce Solutions and HHSC.
The Resource Connection has seven full-time staff members: The director, office administrator, receptionist/reservationist, bookkeeper, aquatic supervisor, lifeguard and a shuttle bus service operator. In addition, there are two part-time shuttle bus service operators and several part-time and seasonal llfeguards.
The director is responsible for property management, financial management, coordination and program facilitation. The aquatic supervisor is responsible for ensuring a safe environment for water exercise and the management of the Aquatic Programs. The secretary is responsible for campus-wide communication and updating/maintaining the Resource Connection website. The bookkeeper is responsible for invoicing all tenants, monitoring the requisition process and assisting the director in grants research. The receptionist is the first point of contact for the clients accessing services and schedules all meetings and events for the Welcome & Conference Centers. The shuttle operators coordinate with our public transportation system (The T) to get clients to their destination. The Resource Connection contracts with Tarrant County information technology services and facilities/grounds management. Security services are contracted through Tarrant County Purchasing Department.
In March 1992, Governor Ann Richards announced the closing of the Fort Worth State School. This dramatic action was the result of a 19-year-long federal class action lawsuit that Lelsz V. Kavanagh, brought to protect the civil rights of mentally retarded individuals who resided in Texas state facilities. The agreement stipulated that the lawsuit would be dismissed within seven days of the occurrence of two events: the closure of a state school and the placement of a specified number of individuals in the community within a certain time frame. The settlement agreement mandated that Governor Richards appoint a task force to make recommendations regarding closure of state schools for the mentally retarded. Thus the TXMHMR Facility Review Task Force was created and the Fort Worth State School was ultimately targeted for closure by August 31, 1995.
Texas Mental Health Mental Retardation created an Alternative Use Committee in order to respond to the many issues this action would have on the staff, the resident, their families and the Fort Worth community as a whole. The committee was instructed to make recommendations for the quick and orderly transition of the Fort Worth State School to an alternate use. They were charged with resolving several critical issues; the provision of the job for the then current employees of the state school, producing a lease agreement that generated revenue for TXMHMR, working out details for the utilization of state-owned facilities by other public agencies and insuring that the recommended alternative use had the blessing of the donors of the property for the Fort Worth State School, the Sid Richardson and Amon G. Carter Foundation.
Shortly after the announcement by the governor of the closing of the Fort Worth State School, civic leaders, concerned citizens and the families of many of the school’s residents came forward to question the impact of the closure on the community. Under leadership of Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff, local elected officials responded to the community action and direction. Civic leaders came together to provide community input into the state’s planning process during the transition phase. Two groups were formed to address specific issues. The FWSS Re-Use Task Force was asked to identify and develop potential alternatives for the facility. The FWSS Transition Task Force was requested to develop employment alternatives for employees within or outside the State system.
The FWSS Re-Use Task Force whose mission was to develop viable alternative for the reuse of the FWSS site, had many factors to consider:
The Task Force met numerous times to discuss alternative uses, heard and researched proposals and met with interested groups offering suggestions and alternatives. All options developed for the re-use of the facility were presented to the general public for feedback. A public hearing was held in October 1992 to seek input on two viable proposals that had been presented to, and reviewed by, the Task Force.
The two proposals were from the Texas Youth Commission for Special Needs Treatment Center and from the Resource Connection, a collaboration of public and private governmental and nonprofit agencies. The Resource Connection proposed a one-stop resource center that would address a multitude of education, health and human service needs in the community.
Many of the citizens attending this public hearing were parents of residents of the Fort Worth State School or staff. They expressed their continued displeasure and frustration at the closure of the Fort Worth State School. Representatives of the community expressed dismay over another prison facility being considered for their neighborhood. Others questioned the service the Resource Connection could provide to the residents of the Fort Worth State School that would be placed in community settings.
The proceedings of the hearing, including public comments, were furnished to the TXMHMR Alternative Use Committee and were a factor in the decision of the group to accept the proposal offered by the Resource Connection. The committee also sponsored a public hearing to listen to, first hand, comments from the community. At the conclusion of this hearing, the committee voted unanimously to accept the proposal of the Resource Connection.
Long before a name was selected, or a formal group existed, several agencies providing services for person with disabilities came together upon hearing of the proposed closing of the Fort Worth State School. They discussed the status, implications and future access to the facilities. Of particular interest was the utilization of the hydrotherapy center and the PT/OT building. The agencies were concerned that proposed alternative uses allow for utilization of the facilities by the wider community. They wanted their clients to have access to these facilities. They took their concern about the future of the Fort Worth State School site to Senator Mike Moncrief who suggested they develop a proposal for an alternative use of the campus. Work groups were formed, weekly discussions were held, excitement developed and slowly a vision emerged: to develop and implement an innovative partnership creating a unique environment for delivering integrated, quality, client-centered health and human services to the community. This “shopping mall” of health, education and human services included the following original anchor tenants: Tarrant County, Fort Worth Independent School District, Tarrant County MHMR, Easter Seals, Tarrant County Hospital District and State and Human Service Agencies represented by TXDHS. The Resource Connection became a reality.
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