Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt and Sherman Police Chief Zachary Flores were each chosen to receive the Texoma Health Foundation’s 2019 Community Champion Award this week. Flores was honored Monday night at the Sherman city council’s meeting and Watt was awarded at the Tuesday morning meeting before the Grayson County Commissioners Court.


THF Chairman William Meyers, board members and foundation staff attended both meetings and Meyers said Tuesday that Watt and Flores were selected for their public safety service and because of their roles as co-chairs on the Behavioral Health Leadership Team.


“The THF board spends time looking at and evaluating leaders nominated throughout the region,” Meyers said. “This year it was impossible not to recognize the commitment of Chief Zachary Flores and Sheriff Tom Watt for their unwavering dedication to the lives of our residents…”


As recipients of the award, Flores and Watt will each be allowed to designate an approved charity of their choice to receive $1,000 from THF. Watt said he intended to give his portion to the Behavioral Health Leadership Team and credited the group of 35 area nonprofits, school districts, health care providers, law enforcement agencies and others with earning the award.


“In my wildest dreams, I would have never thought I would become the advocate for mental health that I have,” Watt said. “But it has happened over a 35-year career in law enforcement, through personal issues that have touched my family…”


Flores could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday, but Watt said cooperation among the BHLT, local law enforcement and District Attorney Brett Smith and 59th District Judge Larry Phillips was essential in further developing the work of a jail diversion committee and strategies to keep low-level offenders, living with mental illness, out of the county’s correctional facilities.


“We have laid out the process that our JPs (justices of the peace) will be working on to help our people who don’t need to be incarcerated but need some assistance,” Watt said.


Meyers said THF identified mental health as a priority in Grayson, Fannin, Marshall and Bryan counties in 2012 and partnered with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in 2016 before helping to connect and build the the BHLT in 2017.


“In Grayson County, we have drawn the line and we’re starting to change the culture here,” Watt said. “We’re starting to get people to understand that it is okay to say that ‘I’m having problems.’”


Drew Smith is the crime and emergency reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at asmith@heralddemocrat.com.