Information provided by the San Benito County Behavioral Health Department
The COVID pandemic took an emotional toll on San Benito County residents just as it did to the rest of the world. The San Benito County Behavioral Health Department (SBCBH) began making necessary changes in order to accommodate the new public restrictions as well as an anticipated increase in clients as a result of the pandemic.
SBCBH was recognized as an essential department immediately after the shelter-in-place order and services were never interrupted for our clients. Services, activities, and events that were normally held in person throughout the year were modified to fit in a virtual platform. The community showed its resiliency by being able to adapt to the virtual and distanced platforms quite easily.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, SBCBH was able to engage the community to connect to services and provide information on the variety of services offered in our county. SBCBH realized that a vulnerable population in our county that could be severely impacted with the shelter-in-place orders.
Behavioral Health Case Managers reached out to the senior community by creating activities such as art contests and plant growing kits that could be done in their home while maintaining social distance. Older adults were also shown by the Case Managers how to use digital devices and access various virtual platforms so that they can safely communicate with friends, family, and other agencies during the pandemic. This engagement and encouragement from the SBCBH Case Managers was warmly received by the seniors and their families.
The pandemic also brought increased concern on how this would be affecting youth in our community. Although SBCBH had Case Managers working on school campuses prior to Covid, we made sure that virtual visits with mental health staff were available during distance learning.
Information on services were shared with school districts and teachers, and Case Managers also provided presentations to teachers and classes to remind students of the services available. Engagement with youth proved to be tougher during the pandemic since they were already doing virtual schooling, and many were experiencing zoom burnout. Our staff increased their efforts to reach out to youth and were able to maintain engagement and provided services without delays.
It is still unclear what post-pandemic life will look like in our county. Given our new normal of virtual and hybrid platforms, SBCBH plans to increase services to the community. The first big event during this year was moving into a new building on Community Parkway in Hollister.
With increased community needs leading to increased staff, we urgently needed a bigger space to accommodate staff and clients. The new building on Community Parkway provides larger conference rooms, family rooms, and individual offices spaces to increase comfort and privacy for clients as well as more availability for services. Every service team is expanding and hiring enough staff to increase client access to services.
In July, a partnership with Valley Health Associates was launched to provide a mobile clinic that will offer some Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) services available in the county. These services are designed to assist people who have been diagnosed with Opioid Addiction to lead a sober and healthy life.
MAT services allow medication to be dispensed to reduce or eliminate the signs and symptoms of withdrawal. With reduced signs and symptoms of withdrawal, clients undergoing MAT treatment are able to be productive citizens in society while they attain sobriety. Valley Health Associates mobile clinic is located at the new Behavioral Health building every Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
SBCBH also did a soft launch of the S.A.F.E. (Support, Awareness, Follow-up & Engagement) program in partnership with the Hollister Police Department. This program will provide emergency and continued assistance to community members living with mental and substance abuse matters.
S.A.F.E. pairs Behavioral Health staff with a Hollister Police Officer to respond to calls that may be associated with mental health concerns and provide proactive preventative measures and linkage to services and resources. The goal of the program is to reduce hospitalizations due to mental illness and ensure that follow up treatment and services are offered to avoid any future crisis.
SBCBH hopes to bring greater awareness to mental health in our community. We have launched a series of billboards to bring information on mental health, substance abuse, and related topics that affect our community.
Our goal is to reduce the stigma of accessing mental health and recovery services in our small community and provide help for those who need it. Whatever the new normal life will be post-pandemic, Behavioral Health is preparing for anything and will be ready to help our community.
For information on mental health services, recovery services, or any of the items mentioned in this article, please contact Juan Gutierrez at (831) 636-4020, email [email protected], or visit San Benito County Behavioral Health Department at 1131 Community Parkway, Hollister, CA 95023.