YouthWell Mission & History
YouthWell focuses on education, support, prevention, and early intervention, connecting youth and families to mental health and wellness resources.
YouthWell seeks to simplify access to mental health and wellness resources for youth ages 10-25 and their families, making solid connections through warm handoffs.
YouthWell mobilizes Santa Barbara County community stakeholders, service providers, schools, law enforcement, and caregivers in order to create a coordinated and comprehensive care response system.
The YouthWell Collaborative's work on our community’s teen suicide prevention efforts to move away from crisis, and includes education, prevention and intervention tactics that comprehensively provide a safety net for youth, ages 10-25.
We strive to improve outcomes, affect systemic change, and increase communication and transparency. YouthWell stays educated on the issues, learns from other communities, and serves as a communication hub, gaining consensus on priorities and using evaluation tools to improve collaborative efforts related to youth mental health and wellness.
PHASE 3 • 2021-2022
- Host monthly Community Workshops
- Partner with Mental Wellness Center and FSA to provide Youth & Teen Mental Health First Aid training throughout SB County.
- In January 2021, we launched an online youth and family mental health and wellness Resource Directory for Santa Barbara County that provides resources that reflect services across the spectrum including early intervention and postvention as well as a Community Calendar. The Youth Mental Health & Wellness Resource Flyer is distributed in English & Spanish to parents, teachers, and counselors through the schools.
- Launch a social awareness campaign focused on prevention and early intervention messages.
- Host annual Youth and Family Mental Health & Wellness Day (Oct 10, 2021)
- Convene key community stakeholders through our YouthWell Partners Collaborative, Behavioral Health Linkages Collaborative, and Access & Inclusion Committee.
- The Compassion Project is focused on providing "simple acts of kindness".
PHASE 2 • 2018-2020
YouthWell saw the need to create smaller working committees and develop a leadership structure in order to move beyond discussion. Phase 2 with the support of the Cottage Health Grant, provided an opportunity to establish leadership structure, committees, and develop shared responsibility for the success of the Coalition’s work. Initiatives were outlined, and commitments were established from key stakeholders. It was agreed that the Mental Wellness Center act as the Coalition “fiscal agent”.
As relationships coalesced, the YouthWell partners benefited most from being able to optimize their work both on and off-campus and leverage their youth services through stronger collaborations. In 2018, we were able to formalize several committees to begin to address our initiatives.
In addition to improving communication, identifying gaps in services, and working on more effective relationships with the schools, we did the following...
- In July 2017, the Mental Wellness Center and Rachael Steidl worked on a grant application for Cottage Health. A Behavioral Health Initiative Grant was awarded (Oct 2017-Dec 2018). The amount awarded covered the costs to convene leadership committees and work with these committees to build a 3-year strategic plan. Committee members signed YouthWell Coalition letters of commitment.
- Youth Services Committee began meeting in the Spring of 2017 to discuss how to work more collaboratively together both on and off campus to better leverage resources for students.
- The Steering Committee began meeting in December 2017 in order to provide oversight.
- The Outreach & Education Committee began meeting in April 2018.
- In January 2018, the Youth Service Providers Committee designed, printed, and distributed a Youth Mental Health & Resource Flyer in English and in Spanish for the Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria junior high and high schools to more easily connect students and parents to mental health resources.
- In January 2018, the YouthMentalWellness.org website was created to create a way to educate the community on the work being done by the Coalition.
- In February 2018, support provided to San Marcos High School after chat room incident. School-based service providers convened to work together with school staff on best way to do campus outreach.
- In March 2018, the School-Based Service providers committee supported FSA & CADA on the SBUSD RFP. The funding ensured ongoing coalition committee meetings through December 2018 and provided support to host a workshop for youth service providers.
- In April 2018, Cottage Hospital and the YouthWell Coalition worked together to host Dr. Steve Adelsheim.
- Steve spoke at Cottage Grand Rounds; A New Approach to Coordinated Mental Health Services for our Youth and the panel included Rachael Steidl, Annmarie Cameron, Zev Nathan, and Susan Salcido.
- During his visit, a smaller committee met to discuss the Headspace and Foundry model in more depth.
- SB Neighborhood Clinics provided a tour and discussion.
- In May 2018, 7 representatives from SB attended the Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference including Rachael Steidl, Annmarie Cameron, Frann Wageneck, Alana Walzak, Ama Atideu, Georgina Dahill, and Christy Stillwell. The conference focused on Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Access.
- In May 2018, meeting with Orcutt school district to share work being done in Santa Barbara.
- In May, 2018, Rachael joined the SBUSD Task Force School Climate and Safety.
- In June 2018, a non-binding letter was submitted to Dr. Steve Adelsheim requesting implementation support to pilot an integrated mental health care space for Santa Barbara youth (Headspace model).
- In August 2018, YouthWell YouthWell partnered with the Impact Hub to host their first Parent Workshop with 160 in attendance.
- In September 2018, YouthWell hosted a Youth Service Providers Workshop with 78 providers attending from various organizations and schools throughout Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria. The goal was to build a connection between Deans, Counselors, SRO’s, FSA & CADA Counselors and additional organizations providing services to the schools. Create stronger referrals and warmer handoffs for students and families with everyone having a better understanding of school mental health and crisis protocols and for schools to better understand services each organization provides both on and off campus. Attended by: AHA!, CADA, CALM, CASA PACIFICA/SAFTY, FSA, HOSPICE, JUST COMMUNITIES, MENTAL WELLNESS CENTER, PACIFIC PRIDE, SBPAL, WHAT IS LOVE, CUSD, SBUSD, CHS, CMS, DPHS, GVJHS, SBJHS, LCJHS, SBHS, SMHS, and ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STAFF
- In September 2018, after positive feedback from the initial distribution the previous year, the Youth Mental Health & Resource Flyer was updated for the 2018-19 school year and distributed to all school districts in south Santa Barbara County in English and in Spanish to more easily connect students and parents to mental health resources.
- In September 2018, Rachael co-hosted a freshman assembly and break out sessions at DPHS and SMHS for 400+ students at each school focused on mental health and healthy friendships.
- In October, Rachael and Annmarie joined Dr. Steve Adelsheim from Standford and visited the Foundry model in Vancouver Canada to learn more about the benefits for youth.
- In October 2018, FSA, Mental Wellness Center, and YouthWell received a 3 year SAMHSA grant that has provided an opportunity for more community education allowing us to focus on prevention and early intervention. Youth Mental Health First Aid is being offered monthly for free to parents, youth service providers, and community members and have since trained 800+ individuals.
- In January 2019, Rachael Steidl moderated a Community Forum in Carpinteria hosted by Das Williams and HopeNet, Strengthening Community Mental Health Resiliency. Speakers included Annmarie Cameron, Von Do-Reynoso, and Kristen Escobedo.
- YouthWell committee explore opportunities for  shared transportation for CHS, DP & SM Students to afterschool programs.  shared office space in YI downtown building for parent & youth support groups.
- In 2020, YouthWell began developing an online, comprehensive youth mental health resource directory to expand on the Youth Mental Health Resource Flyer of which we have distributed 5,000+ hard copies and 8,000+ digital copies in English and Spanish annually through the school districts.
- In 2020, YouthWell worked with SBCEO and SB County Behavioral Wellness on a multi-year state grant that was awarded and will now support six mental health resource navigators working with students and families to access services
- The parent & community workshops were started in April 2018 and are designed to give parents, educators, and providers more tools when working with youth. Many youth are struggling with mental health challenges. It can be overwhelming to know how to handle it and to try and connect them to services. Our in-person workshops draw 200+ people and we have been fortunate to have Deckers Brands as a sponsor and a host. In 2020 we moved to a virtual format with anywhere from 100-300 attending and although we miss the in-person connection, it has also allowed people from all over Santa Barbara County and beyond to attend. The workshops have also provided a platform for parents to connect and feel less alone. Mental health is stigmatizing and can carry a lot of shame. We want to raise awareness and eliminate stigma by normalizing the conversation around mental health while promoting wellness and self-care.
- YouthWell pivoted in the spring of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to offer weekly virtual wellness quaranTEEN Workshops for youth as the mental health needs of students were increasing, serving over 900 youth in 8 weeks. They were designed to help youth feel connected to other students, focus on mental wellness, and have some fun exploring other interests.
PHASE 1 • 2016-2017
- The YouthWell Coalition formed in May 2016 with Rachael Steidl convening key stakeholders in the community to come together to start the discussion and address the mental health gaps in services for students and their families in south Santa Barbara County. Phase 1 was a one-year process that built connections and trust between stakeholders while exploring the challenging issues surrounding youth mental health in our community. We redefined “underserved” to include all youth since mental health is nondiscriminatory.
- Mission and vision established... Connect youth, ages 12-25, and their families to mental health supports before the crisis. Mobilize community stakeholders, service providers, schools, and caregivers to establish priorities and set goals, in order to create a coordinated and comprehensive system of care focused on early intervention, prevention and education.
- Ongoing meetings with service providers, funders, parents, school administration, Board of Supervisors representatives, and others were coordinated to gain a better understanding, increase communication and encourage more transparency.
- The Coalition successfully worked together and identified gaps in services, barriers to access and an understanding that there is limited access regardless of ability to pay for services. With programs that do exist, there are often waiting lists which means students and families are not able to get support. There was consensus that we need to increase training, education, and outreach, expand services and make them accessible to all students struggling with mental health issues. The Coalition met 6 times between June 2016 and June 2017 at the Santa Barbara Foundation.
- The Mental Wellness Center provided lunches for the meetings in year one.
Approximately 50 individuals participated in the YouthWell Coalition meetings.
- In August, 2016, Rachael Steidl and Annmarie Cameron attended the Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference hosted by Stanford to learn more about how Palo Alto and other communities have been addressing similar issues.
- In June, 2017, the Santa Barbara Foundation provided funding for the Coalition to host Denise Gunn, principal at Gunn School and Mary Gloner, executive director of Project Safety Net Coalition to speak about how they implemented change in the Palo Alto school district. They have been changing the culture around mental health through curriculum, campus clubs, high school paper, campus wellness clinics, and in the community. Approximately 56 attended including funders, school district staff, teachers, school resource officers, PTSA, CBO’s, SB County Behavioral Wellness, and Cottage Health.
- In Dec, 2017, Dr. Zev Nathan worked with the YouthWell Coalition and the Mental Wellness Center and invited Dr. Steven Adelsheim, Director, Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing to speak about the headspace model.
Positive changes started happening as connections were made and agencies found ways to collaborate…
- The Mental Wellness Center (MWC) launched SPOT parent support groups to begin giving parents a place to connect and learn tools to better support their teens. SBPal stepped in as a partner by providing the Teen Center for meetings so that parents had a neutral meeting space.
- The MWC and Rachael Steidl partnered on a youth project aimed at reducing stigma on campuses. They launched the Wellness Connection Club at SMHS in 2016 modeled after the SBCC Wellness Connection. The WC expanded to SBHS, DPHS, CHS and Alta Vista Middle College in 2017. The Wellness Connection Council launched as a program of the MWC in 2017 to provide more in-depth training and education to better prepare students to lead their campus clubs.
Early intervention resources are limited and there are many barriers to access regardless of ability to pay for services. There are significant gaps and a lack of coordination in youth mental health services and as a result, many youth and families are not able to access resources when they are struggling which often leads to unnecessary crisis.
Parents and youth often isolate because of the shame and stigma associated with mental health. Parents from all socioeconomic levels deserve to have an environment where they can be open and honest about their child’s struggles.
The Santa Barbara community needs more comprehensive youth mental health services which include access to psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. With programs that do exist, there are often waiting lists and we have youth and families that are not able to get support when they need it. There are very few programs giving parents the tools they need to support their youth struggling with mental health or addiction issues.
We have youth that are sent out of the county and state to receive services through wilderness programs, residential treatment, and therapeutic boarding schools. We have families driving out of the county in order to find adequate psychiatric support. These are costly alternatives for families and they add many more stressors with potentially negative impacts. A common theme for students in recovery is loneliness when they transition home from programs. Schools, providers, parents, and youth need to understand the pitfalls and successes that accompany the process of integrating back into their families and communities.
Our resource directories and support lines are fragmented and do not serve everyone. Conversations with multiple providers have identified a lack of coordination and follow up when referring families for services. We need to collect data and understand the barriers to access.
Making solid connections through warm handoffs for youth and parents, despite the stressors of facing mental health, will increase the quality of life for families and reduce the stressors.
[outlined in 2018]
HOW DOES THE YOUTHWELL COLLABORATIVE APPROACH THE NEED...
 How do we effectively connect families to mental health support services?
- Map and evaluate our existing youth programs, parent support, and referral process.
- Determine where we need to expand, collaborate and educate.
- Develop a better understanding of what is available to both MediCal, low income and private pay youth and their families. Research models that allow both MediCal and private pay insurance.
- Develop a protocol for resource and referral that provides a warm-handoff and ensures access to care.
- Identify 1 crisis & compassion phone line, 1 text line, and 1 resource directory.
Expand SAFTY to be both a crisis and compassion hotline/warmline.
- Create a response system that fosters communication and cooperation across agencies.
- Identify one agency to manage an online universal database (online service directory) of resources related to Youth Mental Health to include both private sector and public agency service providers.
- Create a Youth Resource & Referral list that includes all school-based agencies and the services they provide making it easier for counselors and parents to navigate rather than multi-flyers. Update annually.
- Identify 1 crisis & compassion phone line, 1 text line, and 1 resource directory.
- Improve coordination of data collection and shared evaluation.
- Create a multi-agency project to collect data on the referral process when youth are referred elsewhere.
- Explore options around data collection and referrals in order to develop systems that allow for warm handoffs which create an accountability process through the transfer of service provider responsibility. Provide mental health data and information to other community groups with overlapping goals.
 How do we increase services, improve coordination of providers, and ensure cultural competency?
- Funding - There is a need for multi-year funding so that Collaborating Partners can focus on implementing initiatives and creating sustainability. Research and act on funding opportunities, including community donations, grants and federal funding. The coalition supports the activities of many service providers so we anticipate cost sharing through collaborative projects inspired by it.
- Talk to parents and youth and find out what is not working and why. Look for improved outcomes by identifying the gaps and barriers, expanding capacity of accessible services, and encouraging systemic changes through community collaboration and leveraging relationships.
- Explore long term solutions to provide accessible support to students both on and off campus that address prevention, intervention, crisis response, treatment & aftercare.
- Provide youth access to high quality resources that are able to meet their unique mental health needs.
- Increase communication and coordination between service providers, schools, and families to leverage resources, and provide greater quality of support.
- Work with school districts to strengthen support programs within the schools. We need to assist the counselors who are working directly with the students in making the necessary community connections.
- Support launch of a “multi-agency” parent support groups and provide parent education. When parents set boundaries and shift their behaviors, the entire family begins to change.
- Expand Services
- Work with Stanford and Santa Clara County to evaluate local viability of an integrated health care space for youth in Santa Barbara modeled after the Headspace/Foundry models. This model serves youth, 12-25, experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues, while offering primary care, substance abuse early intervention and support for education and employment. https://med.stanford.edu/psychiatry/special-initiatives/headspace.html
- Support launch of a “multi-agency” teen resilience group for students in aftercare/transition.
- Explore shared transportation options amongst providers to transport students after school to programs.
 How do we reduce stigma and shame and promote institutional change in our community so that families feel comfortable asking for help?
- Increase awareness and understanding around mental health. Inspire a community culture change in order to reduce the stigma and shame and create a safe environment that allows students and parents to ask for help.
- Provide ongoing education and trainings for service providers, parents, and teachers to create more understanding of the issues as well as to provide tools so individuals are better equipped.
- Provide professional development trainings for therapists and teachers, and education for parents, caregivers, community and students.
- Host speakers and panels. Consider an annual 1 day Student Mental Wellness Community Connection [similar format to PFE or Parent University in Chicago].
- Many agencies provide internal training for staff that could benefit other agencies, parents and school counselors if they were made available. Assess existing opportunities for training and education utilizing our local agencies and coordinate an annual calendar. Collaborate with CADA, DVS, NAMI, MWC, Pacific Pride, Just Communities, Hospice, Rape Crisis Center, SBRN, etc. to leverage our local resources and reduce costs (versus using as many outside consultants).
- Provide professional development trainings for therapists and teachers, and education for parents, caregivers, community and students.
- Public Education Campaign: Coordinate a campaign with a unified message that fosters awareness and educates on the signs of emotional distress focused on hope, resilience, know the signs, It’s ok to ask for help, & self-care. (ie: look for additional opportunities like back to school night to reach parents directly.) Partner with Youth Wellness Connection on high school campuses focused on positive messaging campaigns for students.
- The schools currently have many organizations providing school-based services which can include curriculum in the health classes, support services, and campus outreach clubs. The challenge for the agencies is establishing consistency amongst schools and even in the classrooms as to what is being provided and the time it takes to coordinate. The challenge for the schools is that their primary focus needs to be academics and coordinating social-emotional support on campus can be time consuming and challenging.
- The Youth Service Providers Committee will work on setting goals for leveraging partnerships and working more effectively on the campuses and in alignment with the school district’s goals.
- Communication with staff, educational email blasts through Parent Square, coordinated surveys of students and parents for evidenced based research.
- Work in partnership with school districts on providing curriculum in health classes and/or making it available to teachers.
- Explore options with schools for “special topic seminars” during seminar period.
YouthWell Collaboratives will work towards a common goal of putting youth and families first.
- Integrity: We will be transparent and honest in our work together as a collaborative.
- Collaboration: We are committed to a shared vision and will take a leadership role in expanding partnerships, and acknowledge ownership of all the outcomes. We will work to build trust amongst agencies and encourage cooperation. We value the partnership and commitment from parents, students, schools, county, service providers, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, funders, and community to work together towards long-term solutions.
- Equity: We are committed to implementing strategies that are inclusive of all youth (ages 10-25) struggling with mental health and aspire to alleviate any barriers that prevent access to support services.
- Engagement: We will seek feedback from parents and youth to ensure quality of, access to, and cultural competence of services. We will engage youth, parents, teachers, counselors and community to gain a wider diversity lens so that we better understand the barriers families face when trying to connect to mental health resources.
YouthWell Collaboratives will address each initiative with these questions...
- Does the strategy mesh with existing ones in the community?
- Does the strategy reflect goals and objectives of the coalition?
- Do the initiatives represent a best or promising practice?
- Is the strategy culturally appropriate?
- What barriers may stand in the way of carrying out this strategy?
- Is the strategy cost-effective?
- How will success be measured and evaluated?
How can we support you? Share your experiences and your ideas of how we can continue as a community to improve to support youth and their families struggling with mental health.