Six to seven years in the making, Imperial County Behavioral Health Services is ready to move forward with changes to how it targets and treats mental illness in the community.
The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a reorganization and expansion plan for Behavioral Health on Tuesday, one meant to address the increase in demand for mental health services through the implementation of evidence-based treatment.
“Bottom line is, when we go into communities our numbers go up,” Horn said. He explained that once people catch wind of the services and get over the stigma of seeking treatment, more reach out for help.
Several years ago there were only 80 young clients from the Calexico area. However, Horn said once a children’s clinic was established at Mains Elementary School, that number rose to 300.
Same thing for Brawley, he said. For children and adults, there were only 250 people from the Northend using county services. That number has grown to 1,200 today once a Brawley clinic was opened.
“Part of that (increase) is fueled by Medi-Cal expansion and the Affordable Care Act,” Horn said, adding a campaign to erase the stigma of mental illness also has proved successful.
Behavioral Health is poised for growth in both the number of staff and locations. Horn said in six months time, “we should be in good shape.”
In addition to recruiting new psychologists and psychiatrists, three facilities will be opened in Brawley and Calexico each as well as a new anxiety and depression clinic in El Centro.
This expansion of services does not come without much thought. Horn said his department began to move toward an evidence-based approach to mental health treatment six or seven years ago when psychologists with the county began training in the discipline.
Along those lines, so too has changed the way Behavioral Health categorizes its patients, going away from a simple designation of child or adult, instead dividing age groups to targeting what evidence has shown to be specific disorders or troubles at specific times.
Behavioral Health Services’ clinical divisions will reflect changes in patient demographics. While the Children Outpatient Services clinical division will remain, a Youth and Young Adult Outpatient Services clinical division will be added. The Adult Outpatient Services division will be renamed Adult and Older Adult Outpatient Services.
Horn said the first division will deal with children up to 13 years old, where parental involvement is key and diagnoses are commonly attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Between the ages of 13 or 14 and 25, the middle group, Horn said parental influence falls away and peers take a bigger role. Also, the kinds of disorders that tend to manifest themselves include cutting, eating disorders, substance abuse or a combination of all three.
For the last group, Horn said mental health professionals have seen the late 20s be when people have their first psychotic breaks or when bipolar disorder presents itself. What’s more, a growing segment for suicide is men and women from 35 to 55, who can be overcome by the stressors of making a living and raising children.
In terms of treatment for these groups and subgroups, “the strategies are different, the evidence-based practices are different, the training is different,” Horn said.
As funding for additional positions and the transfer of requested positions is coming from federal and state sources, officials say that they don’t anticipate an impact on the county’s general fund.
In other action
The county Board of Supervisors unanimously issued a State of Emergency for a bridge on English Road located some three-quarters of a mile north of Old Highway 111 between Niland and Bombay Beach. The state Department of Transportation rated it structurally deficient in a recent inspection. An emergency declaration allows the county to expedite the process by which repairs are made.
Staff Writer Antoine Abou-Diwan can be reached at 760-337-3454 or firstname.lastname@example.org