Santa Clara County Supervisors Vote to Add Support to Youth Mental Health Services | News

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

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

Currently, 12 elementary, middle and high schools in Santa Clara County have dedicated wellness centers where students can relax, talk to a safe adult and seek mental health treatment resources.

Once given the go-ahead, the county’s Department of Behavioral Health Services will apply for a $1.6 million state grant that will increase staffing capacity at the campuses. More mental health experts on campus will provide students who have “mild to moderate needs” with emotional support, re-engagement in school after absences and timely liaison with mental health providers as needed, according to the grant position.

The second item allocates an additional $500,000 to fund the county’s mobile mental health clinic services, which should be open in October, drawn from the Department of Behavioral Health Services budget.

Santa Clara County teamed up with two nonprofit mental health providers in July to create a Crisis Response Team on Wheels staffed with licensed professionals who can assess and de-escalate people facing mental health challenges.

The hope is to leave mental health care to doctors, not the police, and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, incarceration and the use of force in times of crisis.

The funding will see the mobile clinic team get more equipment and four new full-time mental health professionals to further reach the county’s 16- to 24-year-olds — otherwise known as “youth in transition.”

Once fully operational, residents of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara and other major cities in the county can call the new national suicide prevention hotline, 988, and be directed to county services. Partner nonprofit Pacific Clinics will assess the level of urgency over the phone and dispatch a mobile crisis van for personal assistance if needed. Mental health provider Momentum for Health can transport a needy resident to stabilization services if needed.

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

Chavez said the county saw an increase in depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts among youth even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“These types of resources allow us as a community to partner with schools, health clinics and nonprofits to make sure we’re getting kids the services they need,” Chavez said.

She acknowledged that the “very tight job market” in the mental health sector will present 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 mental health workers of this generation and the next feel comfortable staying here.

“What it will require is not only more funding, but all of our institutions that need clinicians to work closely with the schools so that these programs are not affected,” 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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