SLO County stakeholders eye expanded mental health services

SAN LUIS OBISPO — With more attendance from San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Department staff, and representatives from several nonprofit agencies seeking service funding, the mental health advisory committee stakeholder meeting at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall, April 30, was larger than usual.

The “voting” stakeholders being primarily representatives of various nonprofit service providers and invited individuals with the public interest in seeing effective mental health care delivery in the County, the committee was presented with program requests County Staff felt could fit in the budget. At the moment they’re also reorganizing the accounts to meet new standards imposed by the state legislature, stipulating that 51 percent of their funds be used on, “full-service partnerships.”

“While,” Behavioral Health’s Prevention and Outreach division manager, Frank Warren quipped, “some counties have been classified it as a full-service partnership every time someone leaves the front door [San Luis Obispo County] has been committed to following the spirit of the guideline...our budget is in good shape and we recognize that a full-service partnership is not the answer for everything.”

The region also has enough people in genuine need that it’s not time to invent new categories.

“We don’t want to be the kind of county that classifies a room of left-handers as a special needs group [to satisfy bookkeeping],” he added, “we want to make sure the people who really need full service can get it.”

With that in mind, stakeholders gave the go-ahead nod to a previously discussed proposal to for a Transitions Mental Health Association (TMHA) program expansion to their Homeless Outreach Team, literally redoubling their efforts to date with a $493,000 allocation for another team to cover shelters in the North and South County.

Four new program presentations were also made by staffers from the Family Care Network, Inc.; Wilshire Community Services; TMHA for a different program; and the County’s own Behavioral Health Department.

The majority focused on bringing part-time workers who’ve shown good results in peer outreach programs into full-time employ.

Wilshire’s connection to adult care and hospice facilities provides them with access to specialized medical practitioners, their elderly clients may still have trouble meeting appointments for injectable medications.

Physical health and mental acuity being particularly linked in this population, it was felt that continuity of care and a full-time case manager capable of going to patient’s homes was worthwhile. 

Average peer-worker caseloads for family counseling and drug addiction relapse prevention, addressed by the Family Care Network and TMHA respectively, appear to cap out around 10 active clients per position. Agency proposals anticipate greater impact with steady full-time employment for their workers.

The next stakeholder meeting is scheduled for June 11, roughly the same time that some THMA clients are expected to move into new apartments being constructed off Johnson Avenue in San Luis Obispo.

In the meantime, May is being recognized as Mental Health Month. Drawing attention to the all-important mind/body connection Behavioral Health staffers will participate with the coincidental celebration of Bike Month, with events on May 17.  A Breakfast Station with donuts from SLO Do. Co. will be available to cyclists from 7 to 9 a.m.

But, notes Warren, “you don’t have to bike, you could just walk up and grab a donut.”


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