Mental Health: How the Conversation is Changing at Home and Abroad

MentalHealthInfographicHow often do you consider your mental health?

For many, the word “health” conjures images of veggies, jogs, workout routines, and bottles upon bottles of water. When we think health, we too often gravitate straight toward physical health, sometimes dismissing our mental health altogether.

But that’s changing.

Increasingly in the San Diego and Imperial Counties (and all across the U.S.), the topic of mental health is permeating discussions, forums, and health experts’ speaking points. We’re beginning to focus more and more on our mental health, and the issue is slowly becoming integrated into our local healthcare networks.

With Mental Health Month drawing to an end, now is a great time to reflect on how this conversation around mental health is changing and evolving all around us on a daily basis.

In recent years, we’ve seen Covered California–our state health exchange which helps individuals, families, and small businesses find affordable, reliable healthcare coverage–focus on mental health treatment options and look to integrate them into community clinics.

Working alongside the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), Covered California has made mental health treatment a focal point of its mission.

“The mission of DHCS is to provide low-income Californians with access to affordable, high-quality healthcare, including medical, mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and long-term care,” says “Its vision is to preserve and improve the physical and mental health of all Californians.”

By putting “physical and mental health” in the same sentence, we’re seeing that mental health is no longer an afterthought. It’s now literally right beside physical health in the conversation.

CoveredCA is also taking this mission a step further to integrate mental health services with community clinics. While there are significant challenges in accomplishing this goal–such as finding cost-effective professionals to staff each location–this idea is a step in the right direction in ensuring all individuals have access to reliable, effective mental health treatment options.

We’re also seeing this integration of mental health on the local level.

Over the years, AHF Mission Support Grantee A Reason to Survive (ARTS) has expanded its services and begun to include mental health services into its youth programs. While the organization’s central focus is not necessarily on mental health, its leaders have discovered the need to focus on this area to more fully heal and inspire the youth they serve.

Initially, ARTS was founded as a “therapeutic arts program for children with terminal and chronic illness,” but the organization notes, “Today, programs emphasize support of mental health, as nearly 80% of the youth ARTS serves are dealing with mental health issues.”

ARTS has seen firsthand the impact of mental health services and treatment options, and now they’re providing this type of assistance to a majority of their youth through new programs, such as the ARTS Social Work Team. This team assesses each child’s needs upon arrival and recommends placement into an ARTS program area. These areas include:

  • Heal (therapeutic arts)
  • Inspire (arts education)
  • Empower (life skills, creative career and college preparation).


Additionally, Mental Health Systems has been at the forefront of this discussion in the community since 1978, providing “innovative and cost-effective case management, mental health, drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services in the least restrictive, most appropriate settings.” Their work continues to help and inspire other organizations in this vital discussion.

Other grantees, such as Somali Family Service, The LGBT Center, and Christie’s Place recently implemented behavioral health services, as well. North County Lifeline, a 2015 Mission Support grantee using accessible community-based services to build self-reliance among youth, individuals, and families, is even in the process of launching a Behavioral Health Clinic!

With the work of these leaders at the local, state, and national levels,  it is clear that we will continue to see more integration and implementation of mental health services moving forward in 2015 and beyond.

How are you advancing the conversation of mental health in your community? How are nonprofits around you changing and growing their treatment options to focus on this topic?

Nancy-BigSmileI’d love to hear what you’re doing and what you’re seeing around you. Leave a comment, and we’ll discuss this topic together.

The application period for this year’s I2 Award closed May 6, but I still recommend you visit this page to learn more and to see some of the work done by other nonprofits with its help in past years.

Nancy Sasaki, Executive Director, Alliance Healthcare Foundation

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