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Shasta County offers range of mental-health services

Your Turn

Donnell Ewert Guest Columnist

Here is some news that may surprise you: Today, there are more options for mental health care in Shasta County than there have been for more than a decade.

However, the idea that “there are no mental health services” here persists. I believe this is partially due to the difficulties some people face finding and qualifying for services. If someone is already suffering from a serious mental health challenge, facing bureaucratic barriers or problems with insurance can be incredibly discouraging.

For this reason, I’m writing this column to explain who can access county mental health services and how to do so.

It’s important to remember there is no single mental health care “system,” but instead a variety of different government agencies, non-profit organizations, service providers and private practitioners offering mental health services.

HHSA primarily serves residents who have Medi-Cal as their health insurance. Medi-Cal is a program that offers free or low-cost health coverage for people with limited income and resources.

Our mandate is to provide ongoing treatment and support to people who are struggling with what we call “severe and persistent” mental illness. Due to their mental illness, our clients have serious problems completing daily activities that are important to their lives. In many cases, their mental illness prevents them from holding a job, maintaining important relationships or keeping up with daily hygiene.

This narrow focus can be confusing for some residents, who may be suffering serious mental health issues, even suicidal thoughts, but don’t necessarily qualify for our long-term care.

The good news is we’re not the only provider serving Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Partnership Health Plan of California organizes the network of providers to serve the Medi-Cal beneficiaries with milder to moderate mental illnesses. These include Shasta Community Health Center, Hill Country Health, and Wellness Center, two other federally qualified health centers serving the intermountain area, and North American Mental Health.

We do, however, encourage people to see our Access Team if they are struggling with an immediate mental health need. The Access Team can be contacted at 225-5252 or Shasta County residents can walk in and meet with someone during business hours at 2640 Breslauer Way.

The Access Team may also refer people to the Crisis Residential and Recovery Center, a short-term residential facility where people can stay voluntarily for up to 30 days when they need longer-term support to recover from a mental health crisis.

We have also used our Mental Health Services Act funding to contract with Hill Country to open and manage the Counseling and Recovery Engagement Center.

CARE Center staff assess what’s going on, provide some immediate support and then link people to the resources to the community. It’s located at 1401 Gold St. and open 2-11 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.

Learn more about local mental health services at www.shastahhsa.com.

Donnell Ewert is Shasta County’s Health and Human Services Agency Director.

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