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Santa Barbara County expands mental health services catered to bilingual residents

Posted at 6:52 PM, Dec 07, 2022

There is still a long road to recovery from COVID-19.

“Symptoms that seem to be highlighted more than others were people feeling depressed or people feeling anxious or a high level of anxiety,” explained Suzanne Grimmesey, Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness Public Information Officer.

Last fall, 5,000 people participated in a survey done by Santa Barbara County about the impact of the pandemic.

“Talking about handling problems on their own, our English-speaking participants were a little less than 40%, but our Spanish-speaking participants — almost 60% said they handled their problems on their own,” Grimmesey said.

According to the California Department of Public Health, 38% of the population in California is Latino, but this ethnic group made up 45% of all positive COVID-19 cases and 42% of the deaths in California.

Beatriz Hosp is a promotora or community-trusted messenger with the Santa Barbara County Promotoras Network.

Hosp said the main problems were Latinos not knowing they were facing mental health issues and not willing to accept them, and there are still lingering emotional side effects from going through the disease itself.

Hosp said she recently got a phone call from someone who was hospitalized due to COVID-19 in 2021 and still has problems sleeping.

Based on the survey responses, the county is offering new bilingual mental health services thanks to a $1.5 million grant for three years from the American Rescue Plan.

The organizations running the programs are Transitions Mental Health Association, CommUnify, Lompoc Valley Community Health Care Organization, Santa Barbara County Promotores Network, and the Santa Barbara Response Network.

“We have walking groups, gardening groups, mental health services,” Grimmesey said.

Zumba classes are also available as a group workout.

Hosp said that in their walks, participants and promotoras talk about topics ranging from emotional attachment to suicide.

Trainings for Psychological First Aid and Psychological Recovery are also an option.

“Helping people to recover from a traumatic event, so it’s very much like physical first aid. So if we fall down and scratch ourselves, we don’t need to be rushed to the emergency room, but some first aid, bandaids, cleaning, those kind of things can help get the person up and going again,” Grimmesey explained. “Psychological first aid is pretty much the same.”

Although there are trainings scheduled, businesses and organizations can request a certification.

“Our goal is to create a community that is resilient,” Grimmesey added.

Services are listed on the county’s website. There is a calendar for activities as well as flyers to sign up for training sessions and workshops.

Remember, if you are facing an emergency, you can call the national suicide and crisis lifeline at 988.