May 21, 2024

Upstream Opportunities to Improve Mental and Behavioral Health

As part of our core beliefs, we define wellness as a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual, economic and social well-being. Wellness is personal and not the same for everyone.

Recently, we’ve been focused on identifying upstream opportunities to improve mental and behavioral health outcomes within San Diego, with a particular focus on youth and families. As May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, we are spotlighting a few of these efforts below.

Addressing San Diego’s Behavioral Health Worker Shortage

In 2022, AHF provided funding to support a first-of-its-kind comprehensive assessment of San Diego’s behavioral health workforce. The report and recommendations resulted in a spotlight on our region’s projected shortage of 18,500 behavioral health workers by 2027. The findings spurred meaningful action by the County of San Diego, including the agreement to advance the five key recommendations within the report, and dedicating 27% more funding to mental health care and substance use disorder services.

Currently, the County is reviewing proposals submitted for a Public Behavioral Health Workforce Development and Retention Fund Administrator. Once selected, this administrator will be responsible for distributing funding to support individuals seeking a variety of training, tuition support, up-skilling, and incentive opportunities designed to attract and retain workers in the public behavioral health field. Strategies for worker recruitment and retention will include zero-percent (0%) interest loans and upfront student-friendly financing for clinical training and supervision programs poised to lead to County-funded public behavioral health positions, as well as up-skilling programs for career advancement.

Regional Partnership: San Diego County Strategic Behavioral Health Initiative

There is a mental health crisis among children and youth that has only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with Price Philanthropies and the Prebys Foundation, AHF is supporting a collaborative Strategic Behavioral Health Initiative that aims to convene community stakeholders, including parents and youth, healthcare providers, schools, childcare the County of San Diego, and community-based organizations to work together in the best interests of children and youth with behavioral health concerns.  The goal is to map existing services and programs, identify best practices across the system, conduct a complete scan of current and future funding opportunities and policies, convene and support working groups, and create an advocacy plan and roadmap for improvement.

Student Behavioral Health Incentive Program

We recently provided time-sensitive capacity funding to the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) to support the development of its implementation plan in response to future funding coming from the state through the California Health & Human Services Agency’s Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI). The initiative’s vision is a system of care designed with youth at the center. This is a multiyear, multi-department program seeking to reimagine the systems that support behavioral health for all California’s children and youth, ages 0-25, and their families. AHF funding will support SDCOE in swiftly gathering and reporting local needs data as part of its implementation plan.

Reminding us to keep a continuous focus on our mental health, the San Diego County Office of Education recently shared some actions we all can take. This flyer is full of useful tips and information and was developed by Mental Health America and Mental Health America of San Diego County.

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