The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

 September/October 2023

Judge Hidalgo reads messages of support on October 2, 2023

Harris County, it feels so wonderful to be home! I’ve been living with depression for a very long time, and this summer I finally sought the treatment that I needed. Right now I am feeling so lucky — lucky that I had the doctors to help me pinpoint what was wrong, lucky that I had the support system to help me get the care I needed, and lucky that you, the constituents that elected me as County Judge, have shown me so much support and understanding. The messages and calls I have received were so incredibly powerful and encouraging.

I know I’m not alone in facing depression. In our country, there’s a perfect storm brewing when it comes to mental health. Even before the pandemic, mental illness wasone of the most common health problems among adults in the U.S. As a result of COVID, in Harris County we saw an increase in substance abuse, and many residents reported heightened stress and anxiety. Two years into the pandemic, the Texas Children’s Hospital recorded an 800% jump in children and youth intakes related to behavioral health. And in Texas, 62% of people living with a mental illness do not receive any treatment.

I am coming forward and speaking about my experience because I don’t want other people to feel like they have to suffer in silence. I was fortunate enough to be able to get treatment, and I want to demystify mental health care so that others feel comfortable getting treatment as well. This month is National Depression and Health Screening Month, and there is never a better time than the present to seek help. If you are in need of mental health resources, please contact the Harris Center or your health provider. Below are some resources you can reach out to:

  • The Harris Center: You can call Harris County’s 24/7 crisis line at 713-970-7000 or visit
  • The National 988 Suicide and Crisis Line: If you know someone outside of Harris County who needs help, encourage them to call the National Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8.

I know that my story won’t singlehandedly change the way we think about mental health, but I hope it does bring us one step closer to ending the stigma. My journey fighting depression isn’t over, but now I have the tools I need for the road ahead. I am dedicated to making those tools accessible to everyone in Harris County who needs them.


Lina Hidalgo

County News

Early Learning Quality Network Initiative Expected to Create Up to 4,000 High-Quality Childcare Slots in Harris County

Judge Hidalgo reads to children on June 14, 2023
Research shows us that kids who participate in a high-quality early childhood program are more likely to graduate from college and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, become homeless, or struggle with food insecurity. Despite this, there are not enough high-quality child care seats for kids in Harris County.

In October, Harris County Commissioners Court approved four awards totaling $15.5 million to community organizations Children at Risk, the East Harris County Empowerment Council, VN Teamwork, Inc., and the YMCA of Greater Houston to form the Early Learning Quality Network. Together, the organizations will support and connect child care providers in establishing guidelines for high quality care in the community. The initiative is another piece of Harris County’s much larger strategy to invest in early childhood education and quality child care. Based on other cities who have implemented similar programs, an estimated 4,000 children in Harris County will receive a higher-quality child care experience as a result of this program.

Harris County Approves $2.4 Billion Budget and Lowers Tax Rate for Next Fiscal Year

On September 19th, Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a lower tax rate for the 5th year in a row. The $2.4 billion general fund budget for the 2024 fiscal year was also approved. This budget funds all the services, from law enforcement to road maintenance, necessary to run our County. Watch the video below to learn how the process works:

Harris County Receives $1.6 Million in Clean Energy Funding from the Biden-Harris Administration

As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of State and Community Energy Programs has awarded $1.6 million in clean energy funding through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program to Harris County, one of the first 16 state, local, and Tribal government recipients. Harris County will carry out several activities with the funding, including conducting community engagement with disadvantaged communities for climate justice planning, performing site assessments for solar and storage on county properties in disadvantaged communities, conducting recycling pilots at county facilities, enhancing walking and bicycling to school as part of the Safe Routes to School plan, and deploying an off-grid, solar EV station on county property in a disadvantaged community in the greater-Houston area.

Harris County Public Health’s New Hispanic Chronic Disease Cohort to Address Health Disparities Among Latinos

As we celebrated the numerous contributions our Latino population has made to our community during Hispanic Heritage Month, we also invested in solutions to the challenges of the community as well. One major challenge Latinos in Harris County face is chronic disease – the Hispanic population experiences higher rates of diabetes and obesity.

Harris County is addressing this pressing issue via Harris County Public Health’s ACCESSprogram’s new Hispanic Chronic Disease cohort, which launched on September 15th. This new program partners with bilingual and culturally competent healthcare partners to connect Latino residents with the resources they need to manage their health issues via nutrition and exercise. This pilot program will initially serve 200-300 people with a goal of expanding to serve even more people.

Harris County Accepts $1.28 Million Grant to Fund Legal Services for Naturalization

Judge Hidalgo at a naturalization ceremony on August 3, 2020
In October, Harris County Commissioners Court approved a $1.28 million grant from the Immigration and Naturalization Fund that will allocate funds to four organizations – BakerRipley, Galveston Houston Immigrant Representation Project, Justice for All Immigrants, and The Tahirih Justice Center. The funds would provide legal representation, wraparound services, and naturalization support for immigrants and immigrant families in Harris County. Helping eligible permanent residents obtain citizenship will make a huge difference in their lives, and can boost business and civic participation in Harris County as well.

There are approximately 424,000 residents designated as Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) in Harris County. These residents become eligible for citizenship 3 to 5 years after obtaining residency, yet may not have resources to go through the legal process to become naturalized citizens. As LPRs, residents can still be deported or lose status if they don’t become citizens. Naturalization also offers more economic opportunities and the chance to participate in the democratic system by voting, running for office, or participating in jury duty.

Harris County Creates New Language Access Office, Offers Bilingual Pay For Employees

According to U.S. Census data, 44.7% of the population of Harris County speaks a language other than English at home, and yet not all County services are available in languages other than English. In October, Harris County Commissioners approved $515,000 to establish the Language Access Office program to collect data on residents who speak a language other than English and what their needs are. This information will be used to decide how to best allocate resources and create programs to better serve these populations.

Harris County also recognizes the importance of having staff that can reach every Harris County resident, not just English-speakers. In October, Harris County Commissioners Court voted to approve the creation of incentive pay for bilingual employees and improve language access across all departments. In a County as large and diverse as ours, the more employees we have who can speak another language, the more residents we can serve effectively.

New Dashboard to Collect Data On Numbers of U Visa Applications

Undocumented immigrants who fall victim to crimes often hesitate to step forward, yet their statements and testimony play a crucial role in removing dangerous criminals off the streets. Harris County Commissioners Court has prioritized creating a formal policy for law enforcement agencies to clarify the process to grant undocumented victims of crimes a U Visa. A U Visa can provide legal immigration status to a survivor or witness of a crime and their families for up to four years, allowing the individual to live and work in the United States and a clear path to legal residency. In September, the County took another step to streamline the process for U Visa application by inaugurating the U Visa Certification Dashboard to track the number of applications for U Visas in Harris County and provide data on the need for the program, another step in making crime fighting in Harris County as transparent as possible.

Victims can access the U Visa program by contacting any of the “survivor services in immigration law” providers including BakerRipley, Catholic Charities Cabrini Center,Galveston-Houston Immigration Representation Project and the Tahirih Justice Center.Applying for U Visa certification does not mean that you are declaring your immigration status and victims will not be subject to deportation while awaiting justice. In Harris County, we want to ensure that victims of crime in our community are protected and encouraged to speak out and seek help.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Commissioners Court signs proclamation declaring October National Domestic Violence Awareness Month on October 10, 2023
October is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to recognize victims and survivors, and raise awareness about the devastating impact of domestic violence. Domestic abuse-related homicides in Houston have doubled from 2019 to 2022. If you are in need of help, you can contact the Houston Area Women’s Center’s 24-hour hotline at (713) 528-2121.

Central American Resource Center Houston (CRECEN) Recognized for Providing Assistance to Latino Community

CRECEN at Commissioners Court on September 19th, 2023
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Harris County Commissioners Court honored the Central American Resource Center Houston (CRECEN), a community organization made up of a network of volunteers that provides the following services:

  • Offer assistance to migrants under Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),
  • Support and develop artistic talents of the community,
  • Strengthen the community through activism, and
  • Improve community health

Thank you CRECEN for everything you do for our community.

Upcoming Events

Mark Your Calendars for Early Voting

You can vote early in Harris County now until November 3rd! Visit to make a plan to vote and find a polling location near you!
Upcoming Commissioners Court Meetings
As part of the County Judge’s Office initiative to make local government more transparent and accessible, we invite you to get involved by viewing Commissioners Court meetings. You can check here to see the meeting schedule, and watch the official close captioned livestream here or on the Judge’s homepage here.

Hazardous Waste Collection Appointments

Do you have unwanted household hazardous items? Properly dispose of them by making an appointment with the Household Hazardous Waste Collections facility at 6900 Hahl Road in Houston. Learn what items are accepted and make an appointment here.

About Judge Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is the head of Harris County’s governing body and Director of the Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Judge Hidalgo, alongside four County Precinct Commissioners, oversees a budget of approximately $5 billion that funds services and institutions for the third-largest county in the nation, home to nearly 5 million people.
For more information about Harris County and the Office of the County Judge, click here.