COVID-19 has taken its toll on individuals and communities in obvious and unseen ways. For many, the combination of a global pandemic, economic instability, and quarantine cloistering has produced a significant psychic hardship. In response, Santa Barbara County is conducting a survey to assess the extent of needed mental-health and substance-use services.
During September, residents throughout the county are encouraged to respond by September 30 to a 10-15-minute online survey — in English and in Spanish — that will help the county determine the types of care services needed by the public. Also, along with the county’s Department of Behavioral Wellness and Community Wellness Team, a broad range of community organizations will hold in-person interviews with people who are underrepresented in health care, such as Mixteco-speaking individuals and farm-field workers.
In response to the mental-health gaps perceived during COVID-19, the County Board of Supervisors agreed in June to allocate $1.5 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for a self-assessment by county residents.
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Cottage Health had invested in a similar survey in 2019, and the ARPA funding will underwrite not only in-person assessments and the survey — to which slightly over 1,200 people have already responded — but also the distillation of the data and rendering of results. By October, results should be reported to the County Board of Supervisors along with a suggested slate of program expansions to meet the newly identified needs.
“It is critical that necessary supports to address the unique impacts of COVID-19 are in place in a timely manner to help our community through recovery,” said Suzanne Grimmesey, BeWell’s chief quality care officer. “We could not be more appreciative of the County Board of Supervisors for recognizing a need to address whole-community mental health and supporting this collaborative effort.”
Identifying and implementing priority services stands as a central goal of the initiative, which is also currently developing an alternate survey evaluating the impacts of the pandemic on children up to the age of 5 years old.