MIDLOTHIAN — Students from Midlothian High School will be speaking to city councils, the Ellis County Commissioners Court and other area leaders throughout the next year on what might seem an unusual topic for teens: crisis transportation for the mentally ill.

In a recent presentation to members of the community, the students explained that Problem Solvers is a team of gifted and talented students who select an annual project, identify the community impact, and compete at the state and international levels.

This group is in the senior division, which consists of students in grades 10 through 12. To compete, the group must write a paper, document their efforts in a scrapbook, and prepare a presentation.

“I had known about the Problem Solvers because they raised money for Hope Clinic one year and did a very good job,” said licensed master social worker Mackie Owens, executive director of Hope Clinic and Ellis County’s representative on the North Texas Behavioral Health Authority. “In our last meeting, many will recall that one problem mentioned several times was that people with mental health issues need to go to Dallas for services and there is nobody to take them. They have to be taken by trained people, and many times family members don’t feel qualified to make that trip.”

Owens said Commissioner Heath Sims, Pct. 3, had called her after September’s town hall meeting and asked her to meet with the students.

“This is a problem that can be worked on - can it be completely solved? Probably not,” Sims told the students after their presentation. “But by ya’ll stepping forward and taking this on, we can move toward solving it. You will get to see the political process now and get involved.”

Midlothian Mayor Boyce Whatley was also in attendance at the presentation.

“I’ve seen these guys work,” Whatley said. “They have affected tens of thousands of our residents, not only in the city but in the county.”

Waxahachie resident Waldo DeCuir, a familiar advocate for the mentally ill in the community, thanked the students for their interest about an often forgotten population.

“I think it’s fabulous that you have taken on a project like this,” DeCuir said. “Everybody in here is impressed and grateful to see young people solving problems that maybe some of us should be (solving).”

The Problem Solvers team, coached by Cindy Thayer, includes Christy Allen, Carley Crandall, Landon Freeman, Kelli Hardy, Larisa Kliman, Brad Mallea, Brooke Morgan, Katie Owen, Andy Rowell, Dave Scott and Lauren Summerlin.

North Texas Behavioral Health Authority staff members also made short presentations to those who gathered for the recent town hall meeting, as well as accepting questions and suggestions from those in attendance as part of ongoing local and regional planning processes.

NTBHA then provided an update to the Ellis County Commissioners Court at its next meeting.