Early in the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, staff at San Benito County Behavioral Health began to move essential services to telecommute outlets. When the shelter-in-place order came from the Board of Supervisors in mid-March, Behavioral Health was able to continue to provide care without in-person visits.
Staff analyst Juan Gutierrez-Cervantes told BenitoLink the department was surprised at the ease of remote care and services. He said that not only were they able to successfully provide one-on-one care, they were also able to provide group sessions over Zoom. Not only did group members show up for their remote sessions, they were more relaxed. While there were some concerns about clients having internet access, Gutierrez-Cervantes said all found a way to meet with their care providers.
“We were all very surprised, the feedback we are getting from our counselors is that everybody is a lot more engaged, there is increased participation,” he said. “The dynamics have changed, and I think not being physically face to face may help them feel a little more comfortable to open up.”
As parts of the county reopen under Stage Three of the state’s Resilience Roadmap, so will Behavioral Health’s in-person care. Before the pandemic, case managers worked regular hours in shared cubicles set close to each other. Going forward, they will stagger shifts, with some managers meeting with clients in offices usually occupied by therapists who are, for now, still working off-site. Some case managers work out of the Esperanza Center, which is also reopening, at Sixth and San Benito streets in Hollister. One psychiatrist works on-site and the others meet with patients remotely, something Behavioral Health was doing prior to the shelter order. The center is open from 11 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, which will be the operating schedule until the department is certain the modifications of social distancing and other safety measures can be met.
In need of care? Call the San Benito County Behavioral Health 24-hour access line at 888-636-4020.