Mountain View, Calif. — May 26, 2023 — Five months ago, after watching her job shrink to just nine hours a week, unable to pay her rent, sleeping all the time and snapping at the teenage daughter she adores, Liz's life finally fell apart.
"It was December 9, and I lost everything that day," she remembered. "I lost my home and Child Protective Services placed my daughter with friends. My health wasn't good. I was hospitalized for a week."
"But I've come a very long way in five months," said the Mountain View resident, who agreed to use a pseudonym to share her story after getting help at La Selva Community Clinic through a programs funded by the El Camino Healthcare District. "I'm moving into a new apartment in two weeks, I have graduated to unsupervised visits with my daughter -- hopefully on the way toward regaining full custody -- and I'm in regular therapy to help with my mental and emotional health. I feel like I'm finally on solid ground."
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and, post pandemic, mental health awareness is increasing across the United States among lawmakers and the public.
"Mental health funding is crucial, now more than ever," said Peter C. Fung, M.D., interim board chair of the El Camino Healthcare District. "At Le Selva Community Clinic, we fund a wide range of specialized mental health services. Both the El Camino Healthcare District and El Camino Health's community benefit fund multiple community mental health programs. We believe our support makes a real difference in the lives of people in our community."
A 2022 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and CNN found that 90 percent of people in the United States think the country is experiencing a mental health crisis, and 1 in 5 adults in the United States lives with mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Meanwhile, California and New York have new laws to help people with mental health problems get care, as both states try to break a cycle that often leaves the gravely ill bouncing between life on city streets and incarceration in city jails.
Locally, El Camino Health has long been a leader in providing mental healthcare through its own inpatient and outpatient programs and with financial support to independent, outpatient community clinics. In the past year, the El Camino Healthcare District awarded nearly $1.9 million in grants to support and expand mental health programs across the peninsula. El Camino Health awarded another $1 million, bringing the total to $2.9 million.
One of these clinics is La Selva Community Clinic, operated by Momentum for Health, where Liz called last December. It took one phone call, but that call changed her trajectory. At La Selva, Liz was diagnosed with depression and began weekly therapy.
"Many people that we serve have never had contact with a behavioral health provider and when they come to us, it's their first time," said Martha Zambrano, La Selva’s clinical manager and a licensed marriage and family therapist. "Everyone receives a comprehensive evaluation from one of our staff, all of whom speak Spanish. Some know they want counseling and some don’t know what they need. We help them figure this out."
La Selva Community Clinic opened its doors 14 years ago after receiving its first grant from the El Camino Health Care District. Today La Selva can offer care to 120 residents a year living within in the healthcare district's boundaries and have no or too little insurance to cover mental health services. The clinic currently has room to see more clients.
"One of our psychiatrists says this is the most grateful population he’s ever worked with," added La Selva Executive Director Jim Millsap. "Often they've never been in care, and this doesn't mean they just recently got ill: it means they've finally found someone to listen to them."
For a complete list of organizations receiving grants from the El Camino Healthcare District, click here.
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The El Camino Hospital District was established by voter approval in 1956 in accordance with California Local Hospital District Law. The purpose of the district is to establish, maintain and operate or provide assistance in the operation of health facilities and other health care services, provider groups and organizations that are necessary for the maintenance of good physical and mental health in the communities served by the district. The district, now known as El Camino Healthcare District, encompasses most of Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills; a large portion of Sunnyvale, and small sections of Cupertino, Santa Clara, and Palo Alto. The publicly elected El Camino Healthcare District Board of Directors approves tax dollar expenditures, including expenditures for the award-winning Community Benefit program. Community Benefit funds are granted each year to local nonprofits, schools and government programs that provide critical health services to the underserved. All district board meetings are publicly noticed, open to the public, and available for viewing on the district website.