By Reem Shahrouri
A team of Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) staff traveled to Tehama County to attend a Community Program Planning meeting and to view firsthand some of the county’s programs and services.
The visit with Tehama’s Behavioral Health Department focused on the county’s efforts to provide care to residents who face a variety of emotional and psychological challenges. Recent California wildfires in neighboring communities have contributed to those challenges especially as they relate to housing concerns.
“We strive to provide support through crisis intervention as well as mental health wellness recovery services,” said a Mental Health Advisory board member.
About 20 people attended the gathering. They included older adults, Behavioral Health Board Members, providers, peer advocates, Latino community and family members, as well as housing and education consultants.
The meeting began with a quick overview of the Mental Health Services Act. The discussion included a PowerPoint presentation about MHSA funded programs and a short update of recent events and the current MHSA reporting cycle. The discussion was steered by topics that came out of the 595 comments the county received in a 2018-2019 survey.
Tehama County staff also arranged for an hour-long public transportation exercise which included a client/peer advocate who utilizes public transportation frequently.
“It was really good for us to experience the same things that consumers face on a daily basis,” said Sharmil Shah, MHSOAC’s Chief of Program Operations.
Another highlight of the visit included a stop at the Vista Way Wellness and Recovery Center. This gave Commission staff the opportunity to watch a group of peer advocates at work, answering telephone calls and providing guidance and support to consumers via the regional TalkLINE. The TalkLINE represents a partnership between the Butte County Department of Behavioral Health and the Tehama County Health Service Agency. The Mental Health Services Act provides funding for the service.
The Peers talked about their experience with clients calling the TalkLINE and provided examples of the issues clients call about such as housing, rent increases, isolation and loneliness among others.
Furthermore, the center provides activities for clients who join it. Activities include bingo, group walks and outdoor excursions. The TalkLINE staff expressed interest in pursuing innovative ideas to assist them.
Major discussion topics included, housing and homelessness, the need for additional clinicians, staff retention, stigma reduction, increasing health care services for the Latino community and addressing the needs of students in community schools.
Commission staff also discussed the technical assistance needs of small counties. The Commission plans to work with those counties to address concerns regarding regulations, program approvals and data collection.