(Published in 2016)
Being Present- Mindfulness In Schools
With the support of Hanford West's Principal (a local high school), Kings County Behavioral Health (KCBH) collaborated with the school in developing the County's first ever Mindfulness Club in September of 2015. Students who participate in the club learn skills that allow them to individually address their own levels of stress and anxiety before they escalate to where they may impede their educational efforts or social/family interactions.
The Mindfulness Club is open to all students and meets once a week on campus during lunch. Since its inception one year ago, more than 40 students have participated and the club currently has a membership of 20 students who consistently attend.
While the project is overseen by KCBH staff, the Mindfulness Club is fully student lead. KCBH staff assists students in learning about resources, securing guest speakers, and organizing the club’s activities, but the selection of topics, meditations and exercises are facilitated by the club officers and the members at monthly after school planning meetings. In addition, the club has had teachers and faculty participate in the student led mindfulness/meditation exercises.
To support the Mindfulness Club’s development, Kings County funded club officers to attend a mindfulness retreat for teens. At the retreat, the officers learned new mindfulness practices and meditations in addition to getting to network with other students who are practicing and developing their own clubs.
The Mindfulness Club presents an opportunity for long-term sustainability, cost effectiveness, and replication on other campuses. The student led/focus of the efforts fall in line with the MHSA values. KCBH intends to work with additional schools in Kings County to replicate the Mindfulness Club. While on this campus mindfulness is being used as a prevention skill, it can also be presented as a way to assist students with focus and purpose.
What happens in a community when…..“SISTERS SPEAK”!
According to the 2009-2013 American Community Survey, African American individuals represent 7% of the overall population in Kings County; and during the 2014-2017 Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) community planning process, the African American population was identified as a demographic group that is being underserved or inappropriately served. Stakeholders recognized a need for services that are culturally relevant, specific to this population, and accessible in safe spaces.
In an effort to address and understand the causes of disparities found in programs and services provided, Kings County Behavioral Health (KCBH) hosted a community wide forum entitled, “I Am Not My Hair”! in February of 2015 as part of black history month. The forum discussed with African American women and women of color, the unique challenges facing them today. The largest part of the presentation with the biggest take away focused on how and why so many Black women were going to the “natural” hair styles and how by going to natural hair styles, black women were taking back their heritage, their culture and their identity thereby developing better mental health and physical health as well. The largest consensus was that Black women, by going natural could step out of the shadows and away from the shame of not having long, flowing, silky soft hair like their White or Hispanic sisters.
Another consensus was that Black Women needed to teach young Black women to embrace the full embodiment of their thick coarse mane and be proud of their natural locks. However, the overwhelmingly best consensus was that going natural helped to shed the excuse for poor health due to the lack of exercise because Black women could not mess up their hair by being in the gym sweating it out or swimming because it messed up their hair. Going natural is liberating and financially cost effective because of the high cost of maintaining hairstyles with blow outs, weaves, perms and sew ins, etc.
For Behavioral Health, this forum became the catalyst to launch, Sisters Speak, a monthly forum that now meets on the 3rd Thursday of every month to discuss, answer questions, provide presentations on mental health, prevention, physical health, nutrition, finances and other life issues, challenges and barriers that prevent them from accessing programs and services and what we can do as a County agency to eliminate those challenges and barriers.
In the past 17 months, the number of Black women attending our forum is consistently rising. We have an average of 12-15 that consistently attend. We are now planning to have a strategic planning meeting to discuss next years topics/presenters and a community wide event that Sisters Speak will take the lead on as well as developing a Sisters Speak blog to share the information from the monthly meetings to reach a larger number of African American women and women of color in the community. This is what happens when “Sisters Speak”!
A Plan for Parents- Parent-Child Interactive Therapy
Parent-Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) is an established evidence based program that assists parents who have children experiencing behavioral problems such as non-compliance, temper tantrums, aggression, and challenging behavior. PCIT is focused on improving the parent-child relationship, communication, and interaction through coaching parents with their child. PCIT targets children between the ages of 2-7 who exhibit challenging behaviors. The program can span 20 weeks and requires the parent’s active participation. The services are rendered at Kings County Behavioral Health (KCBH) in special coaching rooms where the parent and child interact, while a trained clinician observes and provides the parent with recommendations through an ear piece.
PCIT is most effective when the difficulty of managing the children’s behaviors has caused the warmth and affection in the parent-child relationship to decay. Through the program parents are taught how to decrease the negative aspects of their relationship with their child by learning to be consistent, positive, and supportive in their communication. Additionally, parents receive training on effective child management skills and appropriate behavioral changing discipline.
PCIT has been around from sometime, but was initially established in Kings County through the Prevention and Early Intervention Plan in 2011. Kings County Behavioral Health is the only provider of PCIT in Kings County and services are provided in both Spanish and English through four (4) trained clinicians, two (2) who are certified trainers for the County. During Fiscal Year 2015-2016, 53 children and their families participated in PCIT.
Free Flowin’- Hip Hop Therapy and Transition Age Youth
Throughout the community planning process for the 2014 - 2017 Mental Health Services Act, the Kings County community strongly advocated for the need to find effective clinical approaches to engage transition age youth (TAY). Kings County Behavioral Health (KCBH) opted to look at innovative approaches that address youth culture and are also culturally responsive for TAY. Two years ago KCBH learned about the Therapeutic Activity Groups (TAGs) that use Hip Hop to provide various levels of therapy to TAY in Oakland, CA. That sparked a two year discussion with Beats Rhymes Life, Inc. (BRL) who pioneered TAG Hip Hop Therapy models.
Kings County is launching TAY TAGs using BRL's Hip Hop therapy model in the Fall of 2016. Each TAG cohort is together for almost three months and culminates their participation with recording 6-8 songs and performing in a live show case. During the cohort, participants engage in sessions which are half discussion and therapeutic and half processing through artistic activity. The artistic activity includes participants writing lyrics to express their experience with the weekly therapeutic topic.
The BRL model uses a clinician, an artist (in this case an emcee or rapper) and a peer participant. The clinician leads the therapeutic aspects of the TAG, the artist leads the activity and the peer supports the group process. As part of the program artists and peers receiving training on group facilitation, mental health 101 and boundaries, while the clinicians learn about the roots of hip-hop, how to write hip-hop lyrics and use studio recording equipment.
The Hip Hop TAG will allow Kings County to offer TAY an alternative to the traditional clinical approaches which have not effectively engaged TAY. This approach will be youth centered, provide participants with a means to express themselves, while participating in services that are not stigmatizing in nature and can be provide in non-traditional settings.
Be the Change! Kings County’s Youth Researching Resilience Program
The Youth Researching Resiliency (YRR) program was developed as part of the 2014-2017 Kings County Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) three year Innovation plan. The YRR program began in the Spring of 2016 through a recruitment process that identified more than 20 transition age youth (TAY) ages 16-25 who will together engage in Participatory Action Research (PAR) that addresses pressing community needs and ultimately the Kings County behavioral health system of care. Participants have been selected from a cross section of the community to represented isolated cultural and geographic communities, as well as consumers, non-service users, foster youth, at-risk youth and youth who have an interest in mental health careers.
Through the PAR framework, participants will identify community resiliency factors, learn about mental illness, develop analytical research skills, and take a lead role in advocating for culturally competent youth-serving mental health programs that are in alignment with the aforementioned MHSA core values. Transforming Local Communities (TLC) is the provider agency who is facilitating the program and providing the training and coordination for the participants. Research Development Associates (RDA) is the plan’s evaluation provider.
Sowing Seed of Wellness the Kings County Spirituality Initiative
Building on the larger statewide Spirituality Initiative, Kings County has launched its own Spirituality Initiative. The Mental Health Services Act Three Year Plan community stakeholder process served as a catalyst in bringing these faith leaders on board and sparking the effort. The Kings County Initiative seeks to engage and collaborate with local faith based organizations and institutions who express interest during the community process in helping those in the community who may be experiencing a wide array of behavioral health issues. The goal of the initiative is to partner with interested organizations and provide training and basic information on mental health, resources, and practices and also to assist in building capacity through training.
Part of that initiative was the establishment of a spirituality committee which will drive the initiative. The members have named their committee the Kings Spirituality Origination for Wellness (KSOW). The KSOW committee is made up of close to 40 community faith leaders and two Behavioral Health team members. In mid-April KSOW and Behavioral Health brought two days of spirituality training to Kings County to strengthen the efforts of the Initiative. The first training Spirituality 101 Training: Addressing the Spiritual and Cultural needs in a Behavioral Health Setting had 70 registrants and the second training Mental Health 101 Training for Faith Leaders and Faith Based Community Members was equally attended. The trainings were offered at no cost to attendees, and the project was funded under Prop 63.
Save A Life, Keep A Kid In School
This has become the mantra for the Kings County’s Truancy Intervention Prevention Program (T.I.P.P.) which is a program of Behavioral Health develop and run in collaboration with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and the Kings County Office of Education. The shared belief of the partners is that truancy and chronic absenteeism are symptoms of other underlying issues (substance use disorders, undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, sever emotional disturbance, homelessness, bullying, neglect, abuse, or other issues). The program features Behavioral Health staff as members of various local School Attendance Review Board (SARB) where they can assist in identifying the underlying problem, provide referrals, resource and linkages to reduce the rates of truancy and/or chronic absenteeism. Aside from the benefits from an education, schools provide a point for services to be rendered to many under served or inappropriately served populations as well as the important socialization. From the cases in need of additional behavioral health services, Behavioral Health staff then open up cases so to address those issues for the students at risk of school failure, at risk of criminal justice involvement, and stressed families. Parents in need of some assistance may also be referred to the L.I.F.E. STEPs course which is a day long psycho-educational class that focuses on skills and information for parents to help reduce the issues causing their child’s truancy and/or chronic absenteeism which is a big portion of T.I.P.P. http://www.kingscountybehavioralhealth.com/youth-and-families.html
The Justice League!
Just like the comic superheroes that come together for the greater good the Collaborative Justice Treatment Court (CJTC) draws on our local real life heroes also for the greater good. As the name implies the collaborative court project combines the Drug Court, Behavioral Health Court and a Veteran’s Court into one joint effort with the focus of treatment. The partners in the collaboration include the Kings County Superior Court, The Kings County District Attorney’s Office, the Kings County Veteran’s Service Office/Public Guardian, Kings County Probation, Public Defenders, Kings County Sheriff’s Department, The Veterans’ Administration, Kings County Behavioral Health and some of it community based providers.
The CJTC started as a pilot program by Behavioral Health in July 2013. The intent of the CJTC is to reduce the cost of incarceration by providing treatment to low level offenders who are Veterans, have a sever mental illness/sever emotional disturbance, and/or have a substance use disorder, who with treatment could avoid additional criminal justice involvement. Treatment linked with court and criminal justice supervision has been shown to be effective in curbing recidivism in such offenders. In an era where crime rates are on the rise, the CJTC has helped alleviate jail overcrowding, while getting others into much needed treatment. The CJTC has improved public safety by increasing offender’s compliance with treatment recommendations and by providing linkages to community resources to help offenders be successful in the community. The program is a minimum of 18 months. The behavioral health and veterans participants are served through the Full Service Partnerships (FSP). For purposes of continuity all members of the CJTC treatment team attend trainings together regardless of discipline thus strengthen the collaborative effort.
Since its inception in July 2013 a total of 245 individuals have been referred to the CJTC. The CJTC has 27 persons under the Behavioral Health component, 17 under the drug court, and 8 veterans in the Veterans Court.
ANCHORS Away….. Anchors Supportive Housing Development Inc.
Anchors Supportive Housing Development Inc. (ANCHORS) is a 501(c) 3 origination developed to provide permanent and supportive housing program for Kings County. The ANCHORS program was a partnership between the Kings County Behavioral Health Department and the Kings County Housing Authority. The Capital Needs and Facilities (CFNT) funding from Prop 63 was used to build the housing complex which has five (5) – two (2) bedroom units. Each unit has a full kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedrooms.
The housing units were built to provide permanent and supportive housing to individuals living with a sever mental illness/emotional disturbance or families of someone living with an SMI/SED.
The project was just completed in 2015 and now houses residents who are all also participants in our FSP program. The housing complex has a wellness center on site for residents to hold groups, conduct social and educational functions. The complex also has a full commercial kitchen (where participants learn to cook, etc.) as well as laundry rooms. The ANCHORS project also features and FPS Recovery Support Coordinator on site who provides the support, referral and linkages needed by residents. There are office spaces in the wellness center as well for partner agencies to use when rendering services to residents. Property is managed by the Housing Authority and the program is managed by Behavioral Health. Resident rent sustains the program, and staffing is funded through our Community Support and Services Plan (CSS). An open house was held on April 20th.