“The Westside is the neighborhood with the greatest need,” said Ruth Loomer, a coordinator with the Westside Health Collaborative. “It has the highest density and least amount of services; it’s tremendously underserved.” In response, the Health Collaborative, with partnerships, has organized the Healthy Community Pantry (pictured) at Harding Elementary with three goals in mind: provide nutritious food, connect families with health care and resources, and address mental-health issues. For the past two years, the pantry has set up on the fourth Tuesday of every month, lately with partnerships with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara and Neighborhood Health Clinics. Westside resident Margarita Bautista has been attending and volunteering since the beginning. “If they weren’t here, how would we get informed?” she said about the partner groups.
During flu season, Neighborhood Clinics gives vaccines to the kids. They’ve also given the children fluoride, and other times they’ve brought a doctor to perform checkups. This month, Wellness Navigator Veronica Mendoza is informing residents about the new behavioral health services offered at the clinics. “We haven’t officially launched the program, and already it’s so popular,” said Mendoza. “We have two bilingual therapists, and their schedules are already full.” Mendoza also helps connect patients with resources. “We also help sign them up for Medi-Cal and Covered California,” she said. “We help them with everything.”