County Marks Opening of Behavioral Health Center


WATSONVILLE — South County Behavioral Health has a new office building, with more space and services for the community.

County health employees and supporters celebrated Friday the opening of the South County Behavioral Health facility at 1430 Freedom Blvd. More than 100 people attended a ribbon cutting and tour of the building, including county and city officials.

“We’re all only one push away from needing help,” said Greg Caput, 4th District County Supervisor. “This is an investment for ourselves and our families and the children of the future of Watsonville.”

South County Behavioral Health provides substance use disorder services, walk-in crisis help, occupational therapy services, a team for transition-age youth and older adults and other health services.

At 13,500 square feet, the building was a $7.5 million project, Caput said, and 30% of that funding has come from grants. The previous county health building was on the same campus, but a much smaller space. The new facility opened for clients in September.

Marcus Pimentel, assistant director of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, said the clinic is an investment in south county’s mental health services and in health equity. He said it wouldn’t have been possible without the Central California Alliance for Health, the county Health Services Agency and other county efforts.

The Central California Alliance for Health contributed $2.5 million to the building through its grant program, according to Stephanie Sonnenshine, CEO of the alliance.

“It’s a space that rebuilds people’s lives,” said Eric Riera, behavioral health director of the County Health Services Agency. Riera said the project was started five years ago at the request of the community, “who needed and deserved a safe space to feel supported.”

South County Behavioral Health was previously down the street. The new office building has several features that the former didn’t, including separate wings for child and adult services. The new space has 44 offices, 16 cubicles and more psychiatric office space than the former behavioral health building. Many cubicles are designated for health providers traveling from north county. The building also has a large conference room for meetings and group programming, a feature the former building did not have.

One part of youth services is the Mobile Emergency Response Team for youth, a group of health care providers that works from the office building and also treats children at home in the team’s mobile behavioral health office. The mobile health office has a clinician and a “peer family partner” working from the van. The team can have a video conference with a psychiatrist at the Freedom Boulevard office, if needed. The mobile office is the first of its kind in the county, according to County Health Services Agency’sRiera.

On the children’s side of the facility, there is an art room and a play therapy room for children up to 5 years old. In the adult wing are three health providers, a registered nurse and medical assistant, case managers, therapists and a public guardian, someone who manages the personal care of residents who cannot mentally or physically provide for themselves.

“This is one place you can come to and everything’s right here,” said County Supervisor Caput.


County Marks Opening of Behavioral Health Center

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