Youth psychiatric beds
Until recently Santa Clara County did not have a single inpatient psychiatric bed for children and adolescents; Santa Clara County kids needing hospitalization for psychiatric crises had to go to hospitals far beyond the boundaries of Santa Clara County. In 2017 at Supervisor Simitian’s urging, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to build an adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit capable of serving almost 2,000 youngsters annually. Located at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, kids will be able to get medical care close to home, near their families and support systems.
Mental health crisis response services
Supervisor Simitian championed the expansion of several mobile mental health crisis response programs so residents in North County and West Valley have easier access to services. Learn more about:
- Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT)
- Mobile Response Stabilization Service
- Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT)
Implementing Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT)
As chair of the County’s Health and Hospital Committee, Supervisor Simitian recommended the Board opt in to Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), also known as Laura’s Law, which allows the County to provide court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment to residents with severe mental illness. The program is targeted specifically to individuals whose illnesses are so severe that they don’t recognize the need for treatment, have a history of refusing or abandoning treatment services, and are unlikely to receive care without supervision.
Mental Health Navigator
Individuals seeking mental health help often encounter a disjointed and complicated health care system. To help make it easier to access services, Supervisor Simitian suggested developing a Mental Health Navigator Program to help residents navigate the county’s mental health system, including public and private resources.
Increasing access to mental health care
As chair of the County’s Heath and Hospital Committee, Supervisor Simitian worked to increase awareness of mental health services available throughout the County and “mental health parity rights” so residents are better able to access services. The phrase “mental health parity” means that mental health and substance use issues get equal treatment as other health conditions. He also proposed a program to help the “missing middle” access outpatient mental health treatment options.
allcove: Innovative teen mental health program
At Supervisor Simitian’s urging, the County Board of Supervisors has contracted with allcove (formerly known as “headspace”), an innovative effort aimed at making early behavioral health care accessible and approachable for kids and teens in Santa Clara County. Because nearly 50% of all mental health conditions have their onset by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24, allcove is designed to engage youngsters who are struggling with mild and moderate mental health needs – before a crisis hits them. The Palo Alto location opened in June 2021.
Teen Mental Health First Aid training
In 2021, Supervisor Simitian proposed bringing a Mental Health First Aid pilot program to high school students in the North County and West Valley. Mental Health First Aid is a training course that teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health concerns and substance use disorders with tools. In District Five, the training is provided by Momentum for Health in partnership with Project Safety Net. Teens can learn the skills needed to reach out and provide help to peers who are experiencing a crisis or may be developing a mental health or substance use problem.
ASPIRE program at El Camino Hospital
For the first time ever, after Supervisor Simitian urged increased access to mental health services, federal Medicaid money – and by extension County Medi-Cal funds – can be spent on mental health services for kids previously uncovered. This now includes ASPIRE, short for After-School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education, an eight-week program for teens and young adults designed to teach mental health coping strategies and provide counseling in a group-based environment.
Youth Community Service
In 2017, Supervisor Simitian asked the County to help fund Youth Community Service for an evidence-based program aimed at teaching and showing teenagers how to cope with stress. The program uses service learning and life skills training to help adolescents acquire the protective factors that contribute to resilient emotional youth.
Pacific Art League Program for Bill Wilson Center
The Pacific Art League (PAL) provides high-quality art education and activities for the public, but art can be more than a hobby or a pastime. Substantial evidence supports the therapeutic benefits of art education as an emotional release and a creative thinking catalyst. With traditional school subjects, art education can also enhance the level of all learning. To increase the number of recipients who could take advantage of their programs, Supervisor Simitian recommended funding for a PAL partnership with the Bill Wilson Center. PAL art educators work with youth in crisis at three Bill Wilson Center sites, allowing County clients the therapeutic benefits of making art.
Excessive medication for foster care kids
In 2015, local news media reported on the large number of psychiatric drugs foster children were being given throughout the state. In response to questions from Supervisor Simitian and his Board colleagues, County staff reported that a high percentage of foster children in our County were in fact receiving these drugs, some at a very young age and often for long periods of time. Supervisor Simitian proposed that County provide a dedicated nurse to monitor psychiatric medication in the foster care population as part of the overall treatment plan.