With the dangerous outcomes of untreated mental health conditions dominating the national conversation, area health care providers are stepping up efforts to treat and prevent mental illness.
The North Bay’s three major health care systems — Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, and St. Joseph Health Northern California — all have invested millions of dollars into addressing mental health needs.
“People are feeling the economic stresses of living in Northern California, where the cost of living is high,” said Dana Codron, RN, executive director of community outreach for Napa-based St. Joseph Health Northern California. “Also, in general, affordable housing is a huge stressor, and after the fires, that really made it worse.”
Kaiser Permanente is also seeing the need to address these pressures among residents in the North Bay.
“We recognize that our society faces a growing need for mental health care,” said Judy Coffey, RN, senior vice president and area manager at Kaiser Permanente, Marin-Sonoma. “To help reduce mental health stigma … and increase the community’s understanding of mental health, Kaiser Permanente recently approved $180,000 in grants to be split between two Marin-Sonoma nonprofit organizations.”
Kaiser awarded $90,000 to LifeWorks of Sonoma County, a nonprofit mental health organization. The other $90,000 has been approved for North Marin Community Services, an agency whose stated mission is to empower youth, adults and families to achieve well-being, growth and success.
“We also invest in our buildings, physicians and staff,” Coffey said, referring to last summer when Kaiser expanded its mental and behavioral health services by leasing space on Mercury Way in southwest Santa Rosa. The location, which has 60 provider offices, houses the health care provider’s Adult Mental Health, Child and Family Mental Health, and Addiction Medicine Services departments.
Kaiser further amplified its mental health care services following October’s wildfires.
“Many North Bay neighbors are struggling with physical, emotional, and economic trauma while trying to rebuild their homes and lives,” Coffey said, adding that nearly 200 Kaiser Permanente physicians and staff lost their homes in the fires.
Kaiser Permanente fast-tracked grants and donations to fund mental health groups for people affected by the fires, as well as for relief assistance and other fire-relief funds and organizations, she said.
Kaiser also subsequently formed a resilience team, comprised of multiple departments working to develop and provide resources, such as how to talk with children about the fires, and tips to help avoid re-traumatization, she said.
Last month, St. Joseph Health Northern California published its 2017 Community Benefit Report, detailing how the health care system determined how to best allocate its $97.2 million investment among its facilities in Sonoma, Napa and Humboldt counties. St. Joseph’s facilities in the North Bay consist of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Petaluma Valley Hospital and Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa.
Conducted every three years, the community benefit report based on input from focus groups comprised of public, nonprofit and government stakeholders, as well as community residents, Codron said.
Of the 17 categories identified for “significant health needs,” mental health topped the list, she said, explaining that although mental health issues were identified across the board, it was the community residents who placed it as top priority for funding — and whose input carried the most weight.
Beyond the community benefit funds, Codron said there is additional funding designated solely for mental and behavioral health through the Well Being Trust, an independent 501(c)(3) public charity launched in 2016 by Providence St. Joseph Health, the parent organization of St. Joseph Health Northern California.
St. Joseph Health Northern California priorities
Here are top issues the health system is focusing on, based on a triennial survey of focus groups.
1. Mental health
2. Substance abuse
4. Heart disease
5. Oral health
6. Access to resources
7. Housing concerns
9. Food and nutrition
10. Early childhood development
11. Insurance and cost of care
13. Economic insecurity
16. Crime and safety
17. Immigration status
Source: St. Joseph Health Northern California 2017 Community Health Needs Assessment Report