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(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) – Countywide mental health services are being launched in response to community feedback gathered from the Community Mental Health Assessment. In order to ascertain and respond to needs locally, the County of Santa Barbara, in partnership with community mental health and wellness partners and stakeholders, developed a survey which was completed by over 5,000 community members in addition to focus groups and phone calls to gather additional information.
Globally and nationally the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new challenges for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors authorized the use of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to first assess the needs and presently to implement strategies and services to address the needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives of many Santa Barbara community residents. For example, survey results showed that 42% of survey participants had someone close to them diagnosed with COVID-19, 21% of participants had someone close to them hospitalized with COVID-19, and 15% of participants had someone close to them die of COVID-19. Consistent with current national mental health and substance use findings, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health symptoms and substance use have increased. More specifically, approximately 61% of survey participants reported worse mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, participants reported experiencing an increased level of anxiety and depression symptoms.
Key priorities heard through the community included:
- Social Connection Opportunities
- Accessibility to Resources
- Education and Stigma Reduction
- Variety of Accessible Services and Supports
Through a request for proposal process, five local organizational providers have been awarded funding with most services currently in place and others to begin in the near future. Providers include CommUnify, Community Promotores Network, Santa Barbara Response Network, Transitions Mental Health Association, and the Lompoc Valley Community Health Care Organization.
Community gatekeepers will be developed through training community members, agencies, businesses, places of worship, parents, neighbors, law enforcement, therapists, or schools on identifying people needing mental health support and helping with resource linkage.
Social connection opportunities and education will be offered through various groups, and “Stressbusters” programming, that will teach resiliency skills, reduce stigma surrounding mental health, provide mental health education and help with linkage to community resources. Activities are being offered in parts of the county including gardening, hiking, meditation, yoga and walking groups. Classes will be offered in Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First and Cafecitos will lead conversations on mental health and protective factors.
To learn more about these new services being offered, please call the Behavioral Wellness 24/7 Access line at 1-888-868-1649. To learn more about the County of Santa Barbara Department of Behavioral Wellness, please visit https://www.countyofsb.org/274/Behavioral-Wellness.