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ARPA funds awarded to five Santa Barbara County organizations to advance mental health services

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – After a countywide Community Mental Health Assessment completed by over 5,000 community members, five local organizations were given a portion of Santa Barbara County's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to advance mental health services that the community wanted to see.

Santa Barbara County partners with community mental health and wellness partners and stakeholders to develop a survey that assessed what services the community wanted to see provided.

The Board of Supervisors authorized the use of federal ARPA funds to first assess the needs through the community survey and then implement strategies and services to address those needs, said Suzanne Grimmesey, spokeswoman for the County Department of Behavioral Wellness.

The survey results showed that 42% of participants had someone close to them diagnosed with COVID-19, 21% had someone close to them hospitalized with COVID-19, and 15% had someone close to them die from the virus.

"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," Grimmesey said, adding that roughly 61% of participants reported worse mental health because of the pandemic.

Participants also reported experiencing an increased level of anxiety and depression symptoms, Grimmesey said.

Through a request for proposal process, five organizational providers were awarded funding with most services currently in place and others to begin in the near future: CommUnify, Community Promotores Network, Santa Barbara Response Network, Transitions Mental Health Association, and the Lompoc Valley Community Health Organization.

Participants expressed various key priorities, including social connection opportunities, accessibility to resources, education and stigma reduction, and a variety of accessible services and supports, Grimmesey said.

Community gatekeepers will be developed through training community members, agencies, businesses, and places of worship, among others, on identifying people in need of mental health support.

Social connection opportunities and education will be offered through various groups that will teach resiliency skills, reduce stigme surrounding mental health, provide mental health education, and help link to community resources, Grimmesey said.

Activities such as yoga, gardening, hiking, and meditation are being offered in parts of the county, and Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First will lead classes talking about mental health and protective factors.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue is the Assignment Editor and web journalist at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Jade, click here

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