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County steps up support for innovative teen mental health program


SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has stepped up funding for a headspace program, an innovative effort aimed at making early behavioral health care accessible and approachable for kids and teens in Santa Clara County.

"Time after time, the saddest part of the story is that a kid didn't reach out earlier, didn't have the opportunity to get help when they really needed it,” said Simitian. “The appeal of headspace is that it’s designed to engage youngsters who are struggling - before a crisis hits them."

Headspace is a pilot project aimed at making mental health and drug treatment services more accessible to adolescents and young adults. The program will host a coalition of mental health providers to provide “no wrong door” services to adolescents and young adults seeking services for mild and moderate mental health needs.

In June of 2016, County Supervisor Joe Simitian successfully proposed County funding for a headspace program at Stanford Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. At Simitian’s request, the County funded $600k over three years to fund staffing at the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing. Headspace has also been approved by the County to receive Mental Health Services Act funding to stand up their innovative programs.

“I’m gratified to see our County step up time and time again to make sure that kids have the help they need close to home,” said Simitian. “We know all too well that the problem is real, so we have to find real solutions here in our county.”
The funding approved at today’s meeting will provide technical assistance to the project, specifically to help identify and operate headspace sites within the county, complete site certifications, and develop partnerships with similar programs around the nation and the world.

The new program is one of a series of steps that Santa Clara County is taking to ensure that youth in the County have access to the mental health services they need.

The County is also in the process of designing and constructing facilities for inpatient psychiatric services for children and adolescents in the county.  That plan was the result of a proposal by Simitian in June of 2015, after he documented the hundreds of local youth annually who were being sent to Alameda County, Sacramento County, Solano County, Contra Costa County, and elsewhere for inpatient psychiatric treatment.

"We know that these beds are an integral and essential part of the continuum of care,” said Simitian. “These kids need somewhere to go close to home when they’re looking for help.”

An early win in the process was the designation of the San Jose Behavioral Health Hospital as an inpatient facility by the Board of Supervisors.

Then, in October 2018, the Board approved a $222 million state-of-the-art behavioral health facility that will house the first County-run inpatient psychiatric services for children and adolescents.

“On any given day we’ve got roughly 20 Santa Clara County kids who are being hospitalized for psychiatric emergencies outside the County, some as far away as Sacramento,” said Simitian. “It's better therapeutically for these kids to be close to their community when they’re in crisis — close to their family, their friends, and their own local mental health providers.”