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CALM: Mental health agency seeks more staff as childhood trauma rises throughout Santa Barbara County

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – Over 50 years ago, Claire Mills gathered a group of her friends. In Santa Barbara. 

Together, they started what is now called “CALM” a nonprofit focused on preventing child abuse in Santa Barbara County.

“I don’t think Claire would ever have known that by adding that one extra phone line in her home back in the late 60s 1970 … that we would have this countywide multifaceted mental health organization," said president and CEO Alana Walczak of CALM.

CALM's mission is to prevent childhood trauma, heal children and families, and build resilient communities throughout the county.

But most of their work is focused on prevention by supporting families so that trauma never occurs.

“There’s just been such an increase in stress, and we know that stress is the most predictive factor for trauma for abuse for neglect, so I think there are just a lot of families and a lot of children who are really struggling," said Walczak.

In 2021, CALM received a $75,000 grant from the Women's Fund of Santa Barbara to provide school-based mental health services. 

This grant helped CALM provide more than 25,000 unique therapy services in 2022.

“Which seems like a huge number 25,000 and that was an increase of 25% over the year before so the good news I think is that the community knows we’re here families know we are here children and families trust us so we’re getting the referrals," said Walczak.

While leaders at CALM are please to get more referrals, they say childhood trauma has risen in recent years.

"Getting busier since Covid we’ve had an increase in service request related to self reported, anxiety and depression, and we seen higher numbers of clients," said chief operating officer Adolfo Garcia of CALM.

The organization has seen a 60 pervcent increase in demand for mental health counseling since the pandemic.

Last year alone, CALM served 2,255 children and families countywide.

Right now, the organization is looking to hire more staff to meet the needs of the community.

“The greatest need is to hire bilingual staff in all parts of the county. We have tremendous hiring needs in Lompoc and Santa Maria ... so I’ll be really need bilingual therapists in all parts of the county," said Walczak.

Through prevention and early intervention, CALM hopes to increase resiliency and decrease the need for costly long-term mental health care.

For more information on CALM, visit:

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
Be Mindful
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Patricia Martellotti

Patricia Martellotti is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Patricia, click here.


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