As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, San Benito County Behavioral Health held an open house at the Esperanza Center on May 22 to welcome the community and showcase the care provided for clients as part of ongoing therapy.
Though it’s required that clients have an active case with the behavioral health department to use the wellness center, anyone is welcome to come in for a few visits to see if they like it. Case Manager Nancy Abellera said the center sees around 50 people total and up to 20 on any given day.
Esperanza Center offers arts and crafts, cooking classes and writing classes. Clients work with caseworkers to receive therapy and medication. The center also hosts LGBTQ community events on Fridays and Saturdays for 14- to 25-year-olds struggling with their sexuality or identity, and those who need a safe haven.
Client Jennifer Dozal said she comes “for the groups that they have here, the cooking class; on Fridays you can just come and have conversations with people.” Dozal attends the women’s group on Tuesdays and said she finds it helpful to her overall health.
Peer mentors run group activities such as creative writing, cooking and crafts.
“They have firsthand knowledge of what it is like to live with mental illness,” Abellera said.
Mentor Bernette Presti said working at the center has helped her develop empathy.
“I feel like this is my life’s work,” she said.
San Benito County Supervisor Jim Gillio took time out of his day to visit the open house. He said he believes in having “inside working knowledge when casting votes.”
Several tables at the open house displayed client artwork. Esperanza Center clients worked on art projects, socialized with attendees and talked with counselors.
Mario Marquez has received mentor training and is currently waiting for an opening. He said he visits the center several times a week and spoke highly of the help it has provided him.
“I care about myself, but I care about the other person a lot more,” he said.
Rockie Ruiz worked on a craft project during the open house. Ruiz said she’s been coming to the center for around two months.
“I really enjoy the Esperanza Center, it is a place of sheer refuge,” she said, recommending the wellness center to anyone who needs a place of acceptance. “I work nights and sometimes graveyard. During the day I need a place I can socialize and yet be comfortable and use my creative side. Everyone is loving here and I am very thankful for this place.”