Mental health resources – who to turn to in difficult times – Sonoma Sun
Posted on December 25, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun
A typical 17 year old is under a lot of pressure. They have many needs that must be met. »
By Leslie Nicholson | Sonoma Sun
The pathways to seeking mental health care are increasingly difficult for many Sonoma Valley residents. Waiting lists, out-of-pocket costs, and the worries and stress associated with a family member’s mental health issues are very real challenges.
Locally, Sonoma Valley Hospital and Sonoma Valley Community Health Center (SVCHC) are two options for local residents who need immediate care for mental health issues.
“When a family member needs to be assessed for mental health issues, SVCHC can provide the care needed to stabilize the patient,” says Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director. “Patients with mild or moderate problems are referred to other local providers. If a patient has serious problems, arrangements are made that involve county resources.
A typical 17-year-old is under a lot of pressure trying to meet the expectation of going to college and figuring out what they want to do, Johnson says. “They have a lot of needs that need to be met.”
“SVCHC also provides the services of a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) to support local school sites,” says Johnson. “Following an incident at one of our local schools four years ago, it was determined that there was a need for an MFT on school campuses. One of the programs to be developed with the help of MFT is a Girls Circle. Young women in this program receive the support and skills to develop better communication skills and ways to avoid negative confrontations.
“We’re also making sure to provide the essential support for parents and caregivers,” Johnson added. “This includes offering a mobile fee scale so we can work with patients and caregivers to get them the help they need.”
Sonoma Valley Hospital works with SVCHC. The hospital’s chief of emergency services, Dr. Jasper Schmidt, emphasizes the hospital’s commitment to caring for anyone who needs to be seen for mental health emergencies.
“We never turn anyone away,” says Schmidt. “Our staff and on-call psychiatrist are well trained to assess a patient’s mental health and provide the appropriate level of care. If a patient requires hospitalization and subsequent transfer to a specialized mental health facility, we will do our best to keep them stable until space is available for transfer. Patients who can receive outpatient care are referred to the SVCHC.”
“What people can expect when they come to our emergency room is that we will find the best option for the patient and that we offer pediatric psychiatry for 0-18 year olds. Most teenagers and young adults we see in the emergency room are between 14 and 21 years old. Young adults between the ages of 19 and 21 receive the same assessments and the process for finding them the right treatment is also the same,” says Schmidt.
“It is difficult to navigate the system for people who do not require hospitalization, because we send them home and, ideally, we hope that they will get online counseling or outpatient treatment at the SVCHC,” continues Schmidt. . “The infrastructure is currently overwhelmed and insurance can be an issue. COVID testing and results can also be a barrier to starting treatment immediately.
Two other local agencies that are actively developing new mental health programs are the Boys and Girls Club of Sonoma Valley (BGCSV) and Hanna Boys Center.
A collaboration with Petaluma People Services enabled BGCSV to bring a therapist to the Sonoma Valley to begin working with Boys and Girl Club members. Although the therapist works at the Club’s Maxwell site, she also makes weekly visits to the Teen Services program on Highway 12.
“Through the Catalyst Fund, our vision for a clinical branch within our institution is becoming a reality,” said Cary Snowden, President and CEO of BGCSV. “We are preparing our space at our Maxwell site for this program. We want to create a warm and safe environment for our members to visit our therapists. Services will be offered on a sliding scale to enable us to provide assistance to as many of our children and their families as possible.
Although BGCSV currently has one counselor in the program, the program hopes to add three new therapists when they complete their placements.
“I hope that bringing more mental health services into the community will have a ripple effect and that all providers in Sonoma Valley can collaborate,” says Snowden. “It’s needed more than ever and I hope to see the programs grow and find ways to connect and support each other.”
Hanna Boys Center is embarking on a new mental health initiative which will officially open in mid-2022 and will provide mental health services and programs for 0-24 year olds as well as support for parents and guardians.
Dr. Stephanie Smith, Hanna’s Senior Clinician, is optimistic that Hanna’s new programs will offer not only Hanna students, but the Sonoma Valley community as well.
“We plan to offer a wide variety of programs that include traditional counseling for individuals and families, as well as parenting classes, after-school programs, and more focused programs like Mommy and Me and Daddy and Me groups,” explains Smith, who has been on staff at Hanna for four years.
The plans also include activities designed to support young people with resilience, prevention, early intervention and trauma.
“The activities we will be offering are yoga, mindful hiking, art, drama, music and equine therapy, once we are up and running,” Smith says. “The goal is for young people to have fun, while having the added benefits of reduced stress and healing.”
Hanna’s program will accept a combination of public and private insurance for some of their therapy services.
“We want to help people find a good fit with a therapist,” Smith says. “Trauma and evidence-based therapy will be offered, as well as workshops and group sessions for teens that will focus on alcohol and marijuana abuse.”
Future plans for the Sonoma Valley Health Center also include implementing advancements in mental health care.
“Over the next two years, we will implement a transformational model focused on factors that impact your health, such as genetics. This new model will also take into account things like your postcode, support systems, neighborhood, and the impact of stress on your heart. By looking at what else is going on, we will have the chance to improve the kinds of coaching and support we can offer our patients,” says Johnson. “This model was propelled in priority during the COVID pandemic, and as patients assessed with the new data are doing well.”
On Saturday, January 22, 2022 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., RISK Sonoma/A Parent Support Network and Hanna Boys Center host “Listening to the Needs of Our Community – Youth, Teens and Families” hosted by Maite Iturri. The event will take place at Hanna’s Auditorium, 17000 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. Many local nonprofits will be in attendance, including Hanna Boys Center, BGCSV, Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, Sonoma Valley Hospital, and Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. Teenagers are invited to participate. The event is open to the public.
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