How a Year of Coronavirus Closures Affected Mental Health in Yolo County

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The panel was moderated by Petrea Marchand, the president of the National Alliance of Mental Illness. It featured representatives from Suicide Prevention of Yolo County, Sutter Health and Rise, Inc. It took place on March 11. All panelists discussed the needs of county residents with both situational and serious mental illnesses.

Panelists spoke on the changes in the needs for mental health care for both patients with serious mental illness — or illnesses that are usually chronic and can require 24/7 care  — and situational mental illness. “I think an additional step to that though could be providing that additional wraparound services,” Patel said. “For example, if somebody does have mental health issues and they’re living in a permanent housing situation, how can we support them? With transportation to get to their medication appointments or to get case management?”

“A key thing is that relationship building and trust,” said Tico Zendejas, the executive director of RISE, inc. “And that takes time to establish. To build that relationship and trust and to reduce stigma.” For situational mental illness, panelists discussed the need for better access and outreach.

Dr. Urmi Patel, the mental health director at Sutter, noted the need for housing for those with serious mental illnesses, and that Yolo County led the way with using Project Roomkey and the importance of providing permanent housing for people. Additionally, it was noted that the county needs more hospital beds for mental health care. Currently, Dignity Health is the only 5150 — an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric hold — facility in the county.

Zendejas emphasized the Esparto community center and medical facility, which is currently being built in partnership with RISE Inc., Winters Healthcare Foundation and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. Diane Sommers with Yolo Suicide Prevention noted that isolation has been a main cause for calls during the pandemic. The organization has also seen an increase in familiar issues.

Patel also focused on the need to improve telehealth systems. She noted that offering telehealth services brought a “surge” of mental health patients to Sutter due to barriers being brought down. Panelists also discussed the changes in need during the pandemic. The mental health issues brought forth by the pandemic have caused a nearly 100% increase in calls to the crisis line. In the past, Sommers explained, the line may receive about 4,500 callers a year. The crisis line is now on track to handle about 10,000 calls in 2021.

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