Even for people of means with insurance, Santa Barbara County suffers a significant shortage of psychiatrists, with first office visits often possible only six months or more after scheduling. For older people without money, it’s even worse. Beginning late last month, Sanctuary Center and Cottage Health have teamed up to provide 20 hours of free psychiatric treatment for those in need out of the Integrated Care Clinic. Sanctuary operates in conjunction with the Neighborhood Clinics right next to their digs at 115 West Anapamu Street.
Santa Barbara has been without geriatric psychiatric services since St. Francis Hospital went out of business nearly 20 years ago. With a $73,000 grant from Cottage, Dr. Steven Ruths, medical director at the Vista Del Mar psychiatric hospital in Ventura, will now provide psychiatric office hours in Santa Barbara. Cottage — as part of its Population Health Initiative — determined mental health care was one of Santa Barbara’s great unmet medical needs. The Integrated Care Clinic started two years ago to provide mental health and dental needs to street people and the elderly residents living at Garden Court. There, said Sanctuary CEO Barry Schoer, unresolved mental health issues have been one of the leading causes for eviction.
Schoer said the demand for integrated-care services far exceeded what he anticipated. “In the first year, we expected to see 1,200 patients; we wound up seeing 1,600,” he said. “This year, we’re on track to see 2,400.”