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Santa Barbara County Buys Santa Maria Property for Mental-Health Crisis Services

Agnes Avenue building will serve patients in a new North County crisis-stabilization unit

Santa Barbara County purchased this building at 116 W. Agnes Ave. to serve as a facility for people in the midst of mental-health crises.
Santa Barbara County purchased this building at 116 W. Agnes Ave. to serve as a facility for people in the midst of mental-health crises. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo )

About 700 calls from people in mental health crisis in Santa Maria were placed to the county’s Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Department last year.

The need to help people in crisis is an urgent one, and the purchase of a building in Santa Maria may help the county better reach out.

Thanks to some grant monies that were awarded in 2014, a 3,100-square-foot building has been purchased for a new crisis stabilization unit.

County officials have described the the type of care the unit will offer as a sort of “urgent care” for people in mental health crisis. 

Patients could stay for up to 23 hours while receiving treatment and medication from medical staff, with capacity for eight people at a time. 

The system is designed to intervene with people earlier, to prevent them from getting to the mental-health-crisis stage where they end up in a local emergency room or another restrictive setting.

A counterpart was opened in South County last November, and that location admitted its first patients last week.

The North County building is located at 116 West Agnes, with a parking lot next door, and was purchased for $465,000.

Noozhawk spoke with ADMHS Director Alice Gleghorn about the purchase, which is expected to be finalized on Tuesday before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

“There’s a large need in North County. We want to bring this resource so people can avoid hospitalization,” she said.

The building in Santa Maria is being purchased because the department was able to save so much money by rehabilitating the building instead of purchasing a new one in South County, she said.

“Since that’s a county-owned building, the cost of developing that was a lot less expensive than we expected,” she said.

Gleghorn estimated the move saved the county over a $1 million, and the department was able to use that surplus in the Agnes Avenue purchase.

The state grant restricted the money to go toward capital expenses, such as remodeling an existing building or purchasing a space.

After much looking, the building was chosen because it’s relatively close to Marian Regional Medical Center, where many of the patients may be referred from.

News of the project concerned some of the building’s neighbors, who showed up at Santa Maria Planning Commission meeting in Nov. 2015.

The commission ultimately approved the project with a 3-2 vote.

Gleghorn said that the department respects nearby residents and also wants to improve the property.

“We have every intention of being a good neighbor,” she said.

Improvements to the building’s exterior will likely begin soon, though Gleghorn said she’s not expecting to have anything done by the end of June.

The building may also be set up in such  a away that half of the beds could be accessible for children in mental health crisis.

Admitting children and young people under 18 would fill a need in the area, since no other children’s crisis units operate in the area, she said.

“We’re really excited to bring this resource,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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