Panelists for Noozhawk webinar on insights into mental wellness challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noozhawk held its first-ever webinar on Wednesday, with seven distinguished panelists who shared their insights into mental wellness challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Noozhawk held its first-ever webinar on Wednesday, with seven distinguished panelists who shared their insights into mental wellness challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kim Clark, Noozhawk’s vice president of business development, moderated the free, live Zoom webinar titled “Mental Wellness During the COVID-19 Crisis,” with representatives of Domestic Violence Solutions, CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) and Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara.

Viewers were able to learn about how these area organizations help vulnerable community members.

The wide-ranging virtual session focused on the support services available and the challenges faced by the local community during the COVID-19 crisis.

Nearly 100 people registered, and the one-hour session including a question-and-answer session with speakers. The audience asked questions via Zoom’s Q&A process. 

Click here to view the webinar recording. Password: 2K##0=1!

Domestic Violence Solutions

Domestic Violence Solutions is a full-service provider of 24-hour emergency shelter and services for domestic violence victims in Santa Barbara County.

The nonprofit’s mission is to work to end the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence by providing prevention and intervention services, and by challenging society’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors to effect social change.

DVS is open, taking clients and continues its important work during COVID-19.

“We still are offering all of the same services that we would normally offer before the pandemic,” DVS Associate Clinical Director Mayra Rodriguez said. “We are offering counseling services, support group, (and) shelter — just everything now is done via telehealth.” 

The organization has telehealth offerings rather than in-person services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support services and drop-in consultation are available through videoconferencing or phone.

In addition, DVS is conducting client eligibility interviews, non-residential client meetings and case management by email and/or phone compared to in-person.

“Since our services before were in-person at our emergency shelters, we were only able to support people who were in our shelter,” Rodriguez said. “Now it’s open to the community, and we are online, we are able to support a lot more people since they don’t have to physically come to our location to receive the support.”

Rodriguez said that “not every situation is the same” for people facing domestic abuse, and DVS has trained advocates to assist with the client’s plan.

Within the last three weeks or so, DVS has seen an increase in calls for counseling and individuals seeking shelter, Director of Client Services Zahida Pacheco said.

The organization has seen an increase in calls as coronavirus-restrictions slowly ease, Pacheco said.

DVS is planning for a surge in calls focused on safety plans once more coronavirus rules are lifted.

“We have also seen a trend of individuals calling to safety plan more now than we have before,” Pacheco said.

DVS, in partnership with C.A.R.E.4Paws, is offering temporary refuge for pets of people fleeing domestic violence and confidential foster care.

Pets have access to veterinary care in C.A.R.E.4Paws’ mobile veterinary clinic, Pacheco said.

The collaboration is a “huge blessing,” Pacheco said.

Some clients were afraid to leave their pets behind, she said.

“A lot of the times with domestic violence — once the survivor has left, the family has left — a lot the times these perpetrators turn to the pets,” Pacheco said. “A lot of times, what held these survivors from leaving was not having somewhere safe to take their pets.”

Click here for more information about Domestic Violence Solutions.

CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation)

CALM seeks to prevent child abuse, heal children and families, and build resilient communities in Santa Barbara County, according to Yvonne Nelson, the organization’s North County regional manager. 

Yvonne Nelson

Yvonne Nelson

The organization offers a spectrum of services that are divided into four departments: early childhood prevention and intervention; childhood trauma treatment; intensive family services; and community strengthening collaborations. 

CALM has openings for programs across the county, Nelson said.

It’s important to work with community partners to build resilient and trauma-informed communities during this time, Nelson said.

“We have adapted to the needs of our clients and our community while responding to the unique issues that have arisen as of what we all are experiencing, which is this collective trauma known as COVID-19,” Nelson said.

CALM has a lot of programs that address specific issues affecting children, said Jennifer Mundy, CALM’s program manager of school based services.

The school-based services are offered at 25 preschools and 12 elementary schools across the county.

The organization is offering classes and workshops for children of all ages, including social-emotional lessons via Zoom, and prepared videos helping parents understand how to help their children manage stress and anxiety during a pandemic, Mundy said.

CALM is working to help teachers and administrators across the county find ways to reopen schools “in a way that is as trauma-informed as it can be,” Mundy said.

“We have been providing teacher support groups,” she said. “We have parent support groups and we have a lot of programming for young children, especially during this challenging time.”

The organization’s Whatever It Takes (WIT) program offers intensive therapeutic interventions to children and families in the county.

Clients have increased levels of need for mental health interventions because of their histories of abuse, trauma and neglect, severe emotional disturbance or mental illness, according to the organization.

Services are provided multiple times a week as needed, and the WIT team will meet with clients and families in their homes or the community.

CALM will support and advocate for children in their schools and any other provider or person involved in the child or family’s life.

“We will do whatever it takes to get the child back to a place where that child is functioning and well,” said Mariana Harms, CALM’s manager of clinical training. 

Click here for more information about CALM.

Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara

The mission of Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara is to provide comprehensive mental healthcare that transforms lives. The nonprofit has served more than 10,000 clients and their families since 1976, according to the organization.

Barry Schoer, president/CEO at Sanctuary Centers, spoke about the organization’s mental health supportive housing and other critical services.

The supportive housing program is designed for individuals with mental illness and tenants receive supportive services.

The organization is seeking to construct a 5-story apartment building for people with mental illness and substance-abuse problems nearby apartments on West Anapamu Street in downtown Santa Barbara. 

“What we want to be is a one-stop community on that Anapamu Street campus serving all of the folks in need,” Schoer said. “We know those apartments will fill up, and if we can, we will continue to look for ways to create more housing.”

Sanctuary Centers “will hold your hand every step of the way,” Schoer said.

In addition, the organization is providing a robust array of telemental health services to clients and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many Sanctuary Centers clients are at high-risk or living with individuals who face a higher risk of COVID-19, said Lisa Moschini, vice president and clinical director of Sanctuary Centers.

Sanctuary Centers has embraced telehealth services via video and telephone conferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moschini said.

“We have found some clients are attaching to that,” Moschini said. “What everybody is looking for is connectivity, and what COVID has created is — unfortunately — a difficulty in doing so.”

Click here for more information about Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk’s Second Webinar

Noozhawk is hosting another free webinar focused on education during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The session — “Learning Together Remotely: Navigating Education in the COVID Era” — starts at 11 a.m. on Friday.

Panelists will explore the challenges and lessons students and educators face in the era of virtual schooling.

In support of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation has gathered a handful of educators who have worked to help local youth stay engaged during these complicated times.

Panelists will include:

» Bill Woodard, principal of Dos Pueblos High School.

» Brendan Carroll, Franklin Elementary School STEAM teacher.

» Ali Cortez, Santa Barbara Unified School District youth outreach worker.

» Kelly Choi, Dos Pueblos High School teacher/The Academy for Success director.

» Joanna Pascoe, Franklin Elementary School music teacher.

Click here to register for the webinar.

The session is 60 minutes long.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.