Growing mental health services top priority for South Lake Tahoe’s Barton Health
May was Mental Health Awareness Month in South Lake Tahoe; and according to Barton Health, it raised awareness through a variety of educational activities. Even so, there’s still much work to do around the lake regarding care accessibility and effectiveness.
“Through community partnerships, we have worked collaboratively to bring about awareness, improve access and take action towards reducing the stigma around mental health,” said Natasha Schue, Barton Health’s community outreach coordinator. “This past month, which was dedicated to mental health awareness, was a great testament to how we can make progress as a community and continue the momentum to change the conversation.”
In a presentation to South Lake Tahoe City Council last month, Schue, along with Barton Health’s president Dr. Clint Purvance, said mental health, substance abuse and access to services were the top three priorities identified in 2015’s Barton Health Community Health Needs Assessment.
“Affordable Care Act mandates nonprofit hospitals conduct this assessment every three years and then work with the community to develop [and] implement action plan,” according to the presentation.
With that in mind, Barton Health aims to expand its mental health services, spearhead community collaboration and engagement surrounding the issue, and build awareness of mental health issues through education and prevention campaigns. It also plans to continue working with South Tahoe Drug Free Coalition, support community prevention programs, educate the community about effects of alcohol and drug abuse, and more.
“Barton is trying to improve the continuum of care and access to care,” Schue added at last month’s city council meeting.
South Lake Tahoe’s city council acknowledged the importance of Barton’s work — along with the city, El Dorado County and the state — regarding local mental health issues.
“Mental health [in South Lake Tahoe] is getting worse, not better,” said councilman Tom Davis last month, with Mayor Wendy David adding, “It’s not just a Barton Health issue; it’s a city issue.”
Purvance said that “the work that needs to be done is going to be measured in years, and sometimes decades.” Thus, Barton Health is committing funding toward increasing mental health services. Barton is also hopeful to obtain other grants going forward.
“It’s our responsibility and we need to fix it,” Purvance said.
Barton Health received $100,000 from a HRSA grant to support mental health forums and the mental health cooperative effort.
According to Schue, “The Barton Foundation awarded approximately $50,000 of Barton Health’s Community Health grants last year, with the majority supporting mental health services in our community. It will likely be similar amount this coming year. The deadline is in June and the grant gifts are given to organizations in the fall.
“In addition, Barton continues to expand ongoing mental health services. We currently have two full-time social workers, two child psychiatrists, and telepsychiatry services available for patient services. We also have a new adult psychiatrist coming on board in August who will provide mental health services. The value of staff time and additional resources exceeds $1 million annually. Other contributions included awareness-building efforts such as mental health articles, print ads, radio ads, lectures, videos and other community outreach and involvement.”
For more information about Barton Health visit http://www.bartonhealth.org.