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Valley Mental Health Collective brings 17 groups together

A new collective of Sonoma Valley nonprofits is banding together to fill a void in local mental health services.
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The Sonoma Valley Mental Health Collective is an aggregate of 17 community-based agencies with plans to implement a system of mental health support and therapeutic services to serve residents “regardless of income, geography or background,” the group said in an announcement.

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The collective hopes to offer such services as individual and group therapy, substance abuse treatments, parenting and family classes, after school activities and alternative therapeutic services such as equine therapy, yoga and art therapies.

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Signing on to the collective are the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, La Luz Center, Sonoma Valley Hospital, Sonoma Overnight Support, the Sonoma Community Health Center, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, the Sonoma Community Center, among others

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The initiative is being spearheaded by the Hanna Boys Center, the nonprofit on Arnold Drive which focuses on services surrounding trauma-informed care for youth and families. Plans are to eventually open a mental-health hub at Hanna Center, where the collective’s services will be based.

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The idea “was born from a critical need for more accessible, affordable and culturally responsive mental-health services for individuals and communities grappling with the effects of trauma and adverse childhood experiences,” the group wrote in a letter to 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, asking for her support.

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Sonoma Valley has long lacked comprehensive mental health services, as county-provided services have historically been targeted toward areas along the Highway 101 corridor.

To get off the ground, the collective has applied for $5,470,606 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. According to the application, the Mental Health Collective expects to serve around 11,000 residents.

To get off the ground, the collective has applied for $5,470,606 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. According to the application, the Mental Health Collective expects to serve around 11,000 residents.

“The Collective will have a far-reaching impact on a community that has struggled with mental health issues, teen suicide, drug abuse, trauma and institutional neglect and indifference,” the group wrote in its ARPA application.

The application cites “increased feelings of depression, social isolation, anxiety, loneliness and burnout among those populations most impacted by the health crisis” as its justification for funds from ARPA, the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus program passed in 2021 to support economic and health recovery from the pandemic.

Leslie Peterson, director of contracts and business development at Hanna Boys Center, said that while the scarcity of mental-health services in the Valley has been well-documented, the amount of need for such services crystallized at a March mental health forum hosted by Hanna and the nonprofit RISK, a parent-support network for families of at-risk youth.

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She said dozens of community members turned out to express their desire for services.

“About 80 people from community came out,” said Peterson. And after gathering information from attendees in breakout groups, Hanna and RISK officials realized something more needed to be done. “The forum was an eye opener,” she said.

When Hanna officials approached other nonprofits about partnering in the effort, more and more agencies signed on in support. “It’s very unusual for 17 different organizations to come together, but the need has been so intense,” said Peterson.

Under the model the collective envisions, the mental-health hub at Hanna will work as a provider of services, while various other agencies will be recipients. For instance, if the Boys & Girls Club requests therapists at its sites, Hanna will provide the therapists, said Peterson.

The hub at Hanna Center will also be a site for therapy opportunities, workshops, trainings and other services. She said the hub will be staffed both by new hires, as well as existing Hanna clinicians.

“When we considered all the trauma that’s been around since the fires and then the pandemic, as we started looking at our options, we realized this is bigger than the youth and families that we normally serve,” Peterson said. “We really want to provide services to all the people who don’t have access.”

Gorin said it’s the first time she’s seen so many community partners come together to form a multi-agency collective to offer such services.

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“So many recognize that Sonoma Valley experience gaps in services, especially mental health services,” Gorin wrote in an email to the Index-Tribune. “The need for mental health services has been exacerbated over the past two years as we have moved through the COVID pandemic with mandates for sheltering in place, closures of businesses, loss of jobs and income, housing insecurity and distance learning over Zoom.”

Goring said she hopes ARPA grant reviewers recognize the “uniqueness” of the proposal and recommend it for funding


 

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