The Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness has receied a $195,000 donation from the John Kovacs Revocable Trust. John Kovacs was a member of the Santa Barbara community and directed a portion of his trust be left to the department.

To honor Kovacs’ memory, and support the ongoing work of Behavioral Wellness as the department celebrates its 60th anniversary, the department has established a memorial scholarship that will award up to two $2,500 scholarships annually.

The scholarshp is designed to provide support for peers (people with lived experience with a mental illness or substance use disorder) who are seeking to expand earning opportunities or personal advancement.

Recipients must show a demonstrated need for which these funds will help bridge an important gap, address an unmet need, or make a significant difference in helping to achieve a life-changing goal. Scholarships will be awarded on a competitive basis, with those interested completing an application indicating how the award will be used.

“This generous gift was a huge surprise and will continue to impact the lives of many, for years to come,” said Toni Navarro, director for Behavioral Wellness. “We are thrilled that we can use this gift to commemorate 60 years of service within our community.”

Scholarships will be reviewed by an evaluation committee comprised of the department’s peer empowerment manager, representatives from the adult mental health services program, alcohol and drug services program, and department peer employees.

The first round of awards will be presented in July in recognition of Behavioral Wellness’ Peer Appreciation Day, July 7.

For any Behavioral Wellness peer interested in applying, the application can be found here.

For more about the Department of Behavioral Wellness, visit For assistance accessing Behavioral Wellness services, call the 24/7 toll free Crisis Response and Services Access Line, 888-868-1649.