Santa Cruz County Health Agencies Deploy $ 8 Million in New Grant Programs – Santa Cruz Sentinel


SANTA CRUZ – Santa Cruz County leaders this week approved a plan to launch some $ 8 million in grant-funded mental and behavioral health programs, including the needs of the region’s homeless people.

Typically, the new and expanded programs will provide suicide prevention services, direct mental health outreach services, mobile crisis response units, and mental health professionals attached to ambulance units. County.

Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency Behavioral Health Director Erik Riera told the Santa Cruz County Oversight Board in a presentation on Tuesday that it was one of the “most opportune times” for the division during its eight-year tenure.

“We have never had this level of investment from state and federal funding commitment to expand behavioral health services in our community that I have seen this year,” said Riera.

Board members asked Riera about how the progress of individual programs would be measured, what times those services would be available, and what kinds of tangible improvements were expected.

Riera said her division was gradually working on providing mental health crisis services after hours and on weekends, but funding for an all-hour response was not yet available.

“We’ve actually learned that it’s easier to partner with nonprofits in the community, especially if we’re considering after-hours and night shifts,” Riera said in response. to questions from supervisor Manu Koenig. “But I think the future will be a hybrid model between the county and the nonprofits and we are moving in that direction, but it will take some time to get to the point where we are at 24 hour coverage and 7 days a week. “

Supervisor Ryan Coonerty said he was in favor of launching the programs as quickly as possible and that frequently reported updates would be helpful. Riera said that initially, workers in the county would be busy hiring new employees to run the programs, in order to meet the timelines prescribed by the grants.

“I think we are all interested here in Community measures,” Coonerty said. “Our constituents don’t care how quickly you have grown and hired people, our constituents care how many suicides have been reduced in our community. So even though there is a lag, I think it is important that these community results are incorporated into these reports, so that we can account for these programs and their success.

Among the new programs will be the Crisis Care Mobile Units program, targeting community-based crisis services for young people and adults, which will have several components. One arm, the Triage, Treatment and Referral Pilot Program, pairs behavioral health clinicians with emergency medical responders in ambulances, similar to the mental health liaison program currently associated with the Santa County Sheriff’s Office. Cruz and the Santa Cruz and Watsonville Police Departments. The new funding, in a second arm, will also bring the Watsonville Police Department’s liaison to two staff members, such as with the Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Cruz Police Department.

The third component of the grant will create a peer-to-peer crisis response team, with members having “lived experience” in crisis response. The fourth program provides funds for the purchase of two vans for mobile crisis teams.

The group’s largest grant is $ 3 million in competitive state grants for the county’s new “Heal the Streets” program, designed to expand community services to people in Santa Cruz and Watsonville with illness. severe mental and / or drug addiction. disorder. Over the next two years, the program, bringing together Behavioral Health, the County Homeless Person’s Health Project and the County Housing for Health Division, will seek to help up to 600 of the region’s “most vulnerable” people. Services will include a mHealth clinic or outreach field services, in addition to direct medication management, peer support and case management services.

The county also received $ 1 million in grants to fund its “Build Hope and Safety-Santa Cruz” program to implement the county’s suicide prevention program for those victims of domestic violence.