Behavioral Health Office on Wheels to Support South Santa Cruz County Youth

Behavioral Health Office on Wheels to Support South Santa Cruz County Youth

Spanish-speaking youth and family who request service Mobile Emergency Response Team will be able to work with a bilingual staff member, in person. If Spanish-speaking staff is not available, families will be able to access live translation services over a video or phone call. The van is also accessible to people with disabilities. The team can provide services at home and at community hubs, such as schools, and faith centers, to those aged 21 and younger. The office on wheels will be staffed with a clinician and a family specialist, who can help connect community members to follow-up services and other available resources. The mobile office was funded through a California Health Facilities Financing Authority grant. That same state agency has awarded Santa Cruz County more than $578,000 to fund a second van and team to focus on north county youth.

The Mobile Emergency Response Team van is the first targeted to assist Santa Cruz County youth experiencing mental health crises. (Hannah Hagemann – Santa Cruz Sentinel) Previously, the Mobile Emergency Response team was based in North Santa Cruz County, according to Cassandra Eslami, director of community engagement for Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health Services.

“So if we had families calling in crisis, it could take up to an hour for our team to get here. We really wanted to ensure that we had high-quality care service that was available immediately to the families in south county,” Eslami said. “We hope that we remove some of that taboo, some of that label that the Hispanic community has on mental health,” said Oscar Rocha, a mental health client specialist with the county. “And that they’re able to outreach our crisis center, to get access to our resources in order for the youth not to be struggling or having mental health crises.”

Oscar Rocha, a mental health client specialist with the County, and Janet Garcia, a Community Connections family specialist, showcase the van’s wheelchair lift. (Hannah Hagemann – Santa Cruz Sentinel) Getzschmann, a licensed marriage and family therapist, has worked with the Mobile Emergency Response Team for the last three years. She said she’s seen an up-tick in Santa Cruz County youth going through mental health crises. “If we have a family who is at home, they have several other kids, they can’t really fit them all in a car. Two of us can go out and try to figure out what’s going on, de-escalate the crisis, and kind of prevent police involvement or hospitalization, and really get people connected to the treatment they need,” said Jennifer Getzschmann, a senior mental health client specialist with Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health.

Garcia will help families get connected to resources they may need, such as therapy, as well as rental, housing, food and child care assistance. Until a patient is able to connect with a permanent therapist, a clinician with the Mobile Emergency Response Team can fill the gap and provide therapy services. “I think it’s important to have a mobile unit because there are families who don’t have transportation, or are limited in their time with having jobs and other children,” said Janet Garcia, a family specialist, contracted to staff the south county mobile unit.

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