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Santa Clara County supervisors vote to further support youth mental health services

Board approves ordinances to expand wellness center program, operate mobile clinic

Hyewon Ahn, left, and Anna Gersh, center, find out each other's common interests in their social emotional literacy and functionality class at Gunn High School in Palo Alto on Aug. 15, 2017. Photo by Veronica Weber.

As the new school year rolls around, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved two ordinances on Tuesday to better improve mental health services for children and young adults, both in schools and on the go.

First, county officials voted to seek out more state funding to expand a mental health wellness center program in elementary, secondary and high schools.

Currently, 12 elementary, secondary and high schools in Santa Clara County have dedicated wellness centers for students to unwind, talk to a safe adult and seek out resources in mental health treatment.

After being given the go-ahead, the county's Behavioral Health Services Department will apply for a $1.6 million state grant that would increase staffing capacity on campuses. More mental health experts on campus would provide students who have "mild to moderate needs" with emotional support, re-engagement in school following absences and timely outreach to mental health care providers if needed, according to the grant item.

The second item allocates an additional $500,000 to fund the county's mobile mental health clinic services set to operate in October, drawn from the Behavioral Health Services Department budget.

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Santa Clara County teamed up with two nonprofit mental health providers in July to create a crisis response team on wheels, equipped with licensed professionals who can evaluate and de-escalate people facing mental health challenges.

The hope is to leave mental health care to clinicians, rather than police, and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, jail admissions and use of force in times of crisis.

With the funds, the mobile clinic team will receive more equipment and four new, full-time mental health specialists to further reach 16- to 24-year-olds in the county — otherwise known as "transitional age youth."

Once fully operational, residents in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara and other major cities in the county can call the nation's new suicide-prevention hotline, 988, and be directed to county services. Partner nonprofit Pacific Clinics will assess the level of urgency over the phone, and send out a mobile crisis van for in-person help if necessary. Mental health provider Momentum for Health can transport a resident in need to stabilization services, if needed as well.

"Mental health services are more important than ever for our youth in Santa Clara County and the key is early intervention. This state funding will allow us to provide prevention and early intervention services to prevent mental illnesses from becoming severe and disabling among children and youth," Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a statement following the meeting.

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Chavez said the county has seen an uptick in depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation in youth even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"These kinds of resources allow us as a community, to partner with schools, with health care clinics and with nonprofits to make sure that we're getting kids to the services they need," Chavez said.

She admitted that the "very tight labor market" in the mental health sector will pose a challenge, especially in a place where the cost of living is so high. Chavez said health care providers need to pay their clinicians well, so that this generation's mental health care workers, and the next, feel comfortable staying here.

"What it's going to require is not just more funding, but it also all of our institutions that need clinicians to work closely with schools, so those programs aren't impacted," Chavez said. "And let's even work with high schools, so we can help young people understand that they have an opportunity to have a career here and that we can pay them fairly to do it."

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Santa Clara County supervisors vote to further support youth mental health services

Board approves ordinances to expand wellness center program, operate mobile clinic

by Olivia Wynkoop / Bay City News Service

Uploaded: Thu, Aug 18, 2022, 9:29 am

As the new school year rolls around, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved two ordinances on Tuesday to better improve mental health services for children and young adults, both in schools and on the go.

First, county officials voted to seek out more state funding to expand a mental health wellness center program in elementary, secondary and high schools.

Currently, 12 elementary, secondary and high schools in Santa Clara County have dedicated wellness centers for students to unwind, talk to a safe adult and seek out resources in mental health treatment.

After being given the go-ahead, the county's Behavioral Health Services Department will apply for a $1.6 million state grant that would increase staffing capacity on campuses. More mental health experts on campus would provide students who have "mild to moderate needs" with emotional support, re-engagement in school following absences and timely outreach to mental health care providers if needed, according to the grant item.

The second item allocates an additional $500,000 to fund the county's mobile mental health clinic services set to operate in October, drawn from the Behavioral Health Services Department budget.

Santa Clara County teamed up with two nonprofit mental health providers in July to create a crisis response team on wheels, equipped with licensed professionals who can evaluate and de-escalate people facing mental health challenges.

The hope is to leave mental health care to clinicians, rather than police, and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, jail admissions and use of force in times of crisis.

With the funds, the mobile clinic team will receive more equipment and four new, full-time mental health specialists to further reach 16- to 24-year-olds in the county — otherwise known as "transitional age youth."

Once fully operational, residents in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara and other major cities in the county can call the nation's new suicide-prevention hotline, 988, and be directed to county services. Partner nonprofit Pacific Clinics will assess the level of urgency over the phone, and send out a mobile crisis van for in-person help if necessary. Mental health provider Momentum for Health can transport a resident in need to stabilization services, if needed as well.

"Mental health services are more important than ever for our youth in Santa Clara County and the key is early intervention. This state funding will allow us to provide prevention and early intervention services to prevent mental illnesses from becoming severe and disabling among children and youth," Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a statement following the meeting.

Chavez said the county has seen an uptick in depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation in youth even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"These kinds of resources allow us as a community, to partner with schools, with health care clinics and with nonprofits to make sure that we're getting kids to the services they need," Chavez said.

She admitted that the "very tight labor market" in the mental health sector will pose a challenge, especially in a place where the cost of living is so high. Chavez said health care providers need to pay their clinicians well, so that this generation's mental health care workers, and the next, feel comfortable staying here.

"What it's going to require is not just more funding, but it also all of our institutions that need clinicians to work closely with schools, so those programs aren't impacted," Chavez said. "And let's even work with high schools, so we can help young people understand that they have an opportunity to have a career here and that we can pay them fairly to do it."

Comments

Marc Vincenti
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Aug 18, 2022 at 12:40 pm
Marc Vincenti, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 12:40 pm

Wellness centers are just one more device by which school administrators and the rest of Palo Alto adults convince themselves that they are helping suffering kids when in fact they are doing nothing.

In this, they fit in nicely with Project Safety Net, the psychological autopsies run by Stanford's Dr. Joshi, the CDC study, and community health centers.

These centers are like giving gas masks to children who are in toxic environments, rather than simply flushing out the gases that are making the kids sick.

Our high schools are like old-time sweatshops. They spew overcrowded classes, wrenching students from contact with those they may love (their teachers).

They offer students and teachers no timely, confidential, user-friendly way to communicate about homework loads and they offer families no way to understand the damage wreaked by oversubscription to AP classes—loss of sleep, loss of family time, loss of free time, loss of spiritual time, loss of friendship time.

Our high schools still put up with students' all-day access to cellphones, which more and more studies are showing to be harmful to kids' mental health (and which they manage to use in the classroom).

Gunn High School mandates far more course grades per year than previously—allowing no respite for, say, a romantic break-up, loss of a grandparent, or online humiliation.

Finally our high schools are toxic generators of cheating—creating tremendous anxiety among our very competitive kids.

Mental health centers? They are fingers in the dike, tiny cracks for ventilation in the encompassing sweatshop. They are chances for the grown-ups to boast, "Look at all we are doing!"

We had mental health centers and still suffered student suicides in 2017 and 2020. Students overloaded with homework, APs, and phone use don't really have time or the desire to use them.

Not until the grown-ups look at what kids actually need can we undo their daily grind and give them hope.


KEN HOROWITZ
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2022 at 4:35 pm
KEN HOROWITZ, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 4:35 pm

As a functional health educator, Palo Altans need to get to the real causes on why our kids are more anxious and depressed. I believe it is related to diet (processed foods) and sugar sweetened beverages (soda and boba tea). A recent study of 8,000 Asian adolescents showed that consuming more than seven sodas per week was related to increased anxiety and depression. Palo Alto should adopt a "soda tax" at two cents per ounce as done by Berkeley, Seattle, and Boulder, Colorado which has resulted in less consumption of sugar sweetened beverages. In addition, $2.5M would be generated annually to support this important mental health work. Let us tell our City Council to put such a measure on the 2024 ballot.


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