Two local organizations have collaborated to create Santa Barbara’s first clinic offering dental, medical and behavioral health services for people with mental illness, including substance abuse disorders.
The new Integrated Care Clinic at 115 W. Anapamu St. focuses on providing comprehensive treatment for low-income individuals, said Charles Fenzi, CEO of the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.
“The clinic is open to everybody, but we decided to make it particularly available for people who suffer from mental illness,” Fenzi said.
It is the only facility of its kind between Los Angeles and San Francisco, said Barry Schoer, president and CEO of Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara.
“We have people with no teeth, rotting teeth and embarrassed to smile,” Schoer said.
“People with mental illness die 25 years younger than the rest of the population — we can start turning the mortality rate around. This clinic is about treating the person with respect, compassion, love and care.”
The clinic’s staff members have seen more than 100 dental patients and nearly 100 medical patients this summer, said Alice Gleghorn, who heads the county’s Behavioral Wellness Department.
Gleghorn said she was particularly thrilled to see a dental chair inside the clinic.
“Dentistry is huge for behavioral health clients; without it, they can catch other diseases because of infections and things spiral out of control,” Gleghorn said. “They can’t eat very well.”
Inside the building, Nurse Practitioner Suzanne Kenedy noted a bulletin board displaying letters from patients thanking the clinic’s staff for their services.
“It’s our encouragement board,” Kenedy said. “When patients come in, they are a little broken, but they feel supported when they leave. It reminds us why we are doing this.”
The Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and the Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara have focused their programs and services on the community’s low-income population for more than 40 years.
A grand opening for the new facility was held Thursday evening.