Employees with Santa Barbara County's Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services were celebrating Friday after learning the department would be awarded an $8.3 million state grant to beef up services for people in mental-health crisis.
It's a huge victory for the chronically underfunded department, and will allow funding to stretch over 3½ years and enable more hiring for case workers and therapists.
The department provides treatment, rehabilitation and support services each year to approximately 7,600 clients with mental illness and 4,500 clients with substance-use disorders.
"We were delighted that we were awarded the grant," ADMHS chief strategy officer Suzanne Grimmesey told Noozhawk on Friday, adding that the group was actually awarded more money than what it initially applied for.
The funds are going to both ends of the mental-health spectrum, Grimmesey said, with an emphasis on prevention as well as treating people in crisis situations.
The money will help fill 23.5 full-time positions of mental health professionals, consumer and family peers, case workers and psychiatrists in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc.
"These are all new staff," Grimmesey said.
The program is designed to reduce costs associated with expensive inpatient and emergency room care by better serving people experiencing mental health crises in the least restrictive manner possible.
Creating a "warm hand-off" for people coming from hospital emergency rooms or coming out of the county psychiatric health facility will be key, she said.
That means that once people are discharged, a case worker will help them pick up any medications they need and smoothly transition back into life outside hospital walls.
The department will also hear back about another grant later this spring that would bring another $2 million into ADMHS coffers.
The funding for new crisis triage teams was made possible by state Senate Bill 82, the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013, and administered by the Mental Health Services Office of Accountability Commission.
“Since initiating a systems change initiative last spring, ADMHS has built extensive partnerships with stakeholders to redesign county alcohol, drug and mental programs and services,” said Dr. Takashi Wada, ADMHS interim director. “Enhanced crisis services are a top stakeholder priority, and new grant funding for crisis-triage teams is enormously helpful in providing the services the community wants and deserves."