Santa Clara County Sinks Millions into Mental Health Crisis.

Santa Clara County is investing millions in mental health programs and workers to address an ongoing crisis.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved roughly $9.5 million to continue several mental health programs, such as residential treatment services, at its Tuesday meeting. Local officials also voted to spend more than $14 million to create 38 full-time jobs to support mental health programs for families, seniors and LGBTQ residents, among others.

UPDATE: Santa Clara County sinks millions into mental health crisis
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 10, 2023. Photo by Jana Kadah.

“This is an effort to really beef up our emergency and mental health response,†County Executive Jeff Smith told San José Spotlight. “We’ve been trying to do this for quite some time.â€

The $9.5 million will continue to sustain various programs that launched last October with a $4.6 million investment. Those programs include $2.3 million that went to The Camp Recovery Center, a Scotts Valley-based addiction treatment center, to provide substance use residential treatment services for youth. The Tuesday vote added roughly $300,000 to the contract.

The county is also giving roughly $930,000 to A&A Health Services, a mental health service provider in San Pablo, for 24/7 residential treatment services.

In addition, county officials are committing $1.6 million to prevent people with mental health issues from falling into homelessness. They are also investing in recruitment and retention efforts.

The investments come as the county continues to struggle with its ongoing mental health and substance use crisis. Local officials declared a mental health emergency in Santa Clara County last January, citing a record increase in suicides and drug overdoses, an inadequate number of beds in treatments facilities and the overuse of prisons as a “place of last resort†for those in need of treatment. Supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Otto Lee, who spearheaded the efforts, also lambasted the county last summer over its lack of progress in addressing these needs.

The latest proposed investments could help strengthen existing programs and allow the county to expand its resources further, officials said.

“These investments will position us to support more people getting connected to the resources and services they need when they need them most,†Ellenberg told San José Spotlight. “Santa Clara County is serious about addressing this public health crisis and will continue to seek to maximize state funding to add treatment beds at all levels.â€

Local officials said the county has made some progress this past year. In February, the county launched an assisted outpatient treatment program, known as Laura’s Law, and saw early progress. It also implemented 988, a suicide and mental health crisis hotline. Some are still skeptical of the program’s effectiveness, citing worker shortages, long hold times and police-only responses to serious mental health crises.

The programs being funded provide immediate services, while Santa Clara County continues to work on building its facilities, including a long-term residential treatment facility at 650 S. Bascom Ave., supervisors said.

“The need is here, so let’s find the spaces wherever they are and get people the services,†Lee told San José Spotlight.

With $14 million in funding, officials also hope to expand Santa Clara County’s workforce to support its efforts to address the mental health crisis. Mental health worker shortages are widespread in California, as agencies across the state struggle to meet demand for services.

According to the county, the new funding would add 12 mental health peer support workers, 10 mental health community workers and five psychiatric social workers, among other administrative positions. The workers would help a number of programs, including the expansion of the 988 hotline and intervention teams.

“We’re expecting to create the positions, but it will be a matter of filling them,†Smith said. “There’s a shortage of those clinicians, but we will give it everything we can to fill the positions.â€

Original by Tran Nguyen for San Jose Spotlight.