Santa Barbara County residents seeking resources for mental health due to increased challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic will now be able to find solace through a countywide effort to offer new services through several local organizations.
The programs are a response to the Community Mental Health Assessment survey, which showed that 61 percent of 5,000 participants reported “worse mental health” due to COVID-19, and that 21 percent of participants had someone close to them hospitalized due to the virus. The survey also showed an “increased level of anxiety and depression symptoms” for county residents, which reflects a greater trend across the world.
“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,” said Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness spokesperson Suzanne Grimmesey.
To address these issues, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the use of funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to determine and administer services for the public’s needs.
Sign up for Indy Today to receive fresh news from Independent.com, in your inbox, every morning.
Five local organizations will be provided with the federal ARPA funds, including CommUnify, Community Promotores Network, Santa Barbara Response Network, Transitions Mental Health Association, and the Lompoc Valley Community Health Care Organization. Most of the services are already available with others set to start in the near future.
The survey also showed that local residents prioritized the need for social connection opportunities, accessibility to resources, and more education and stigma reduction regarding mental health issues.
Grimmessey said the county will develop “community gatekeepers,” whose main role includes identifying those in need of mental health support and assisting with finding resources, by training community members, neighbors, parents, and therapists, as well as involving outside agencies, businesses, places of worship, law enforcement, and schools.
The county will also offer group “stressbusters” programming, which will encourage social connection and aims to teach resiliency skills, provide mental health education, and help connect individuals to other community resources.
Anyone interested in learning more about these services can visit the Behavioral Wellness website or call the 24/7 access line at (1-888) 868-1649.