Sonoma Valley is slowly lifting the mental health stigma

Sonoma Valley is slowly lifting the mental health stigma

Try to find a therapist who accepts both health insurance and new clients right now in the Sonoma Valley. This will take you at least a dozen phone calls, and you’ll probably end up paying out of pocket or heading out of town, if you have enough resources to make it happen.

When not covered by insurance, the average therapy session costs between $150 and $200 in the Bay Area, according to KQED. This leaves very little hope for seniors on fixed incomes, whose 20% suffer from depression; or homeless people, where 75% of the population is mentally ill or struggling with drug addiction.

Even those with insurance often find themselves in a lurch. More than 60% of the Valley uses Kaiser, the healthcare provider that for years has been involved in highly publicized trialsand recent strikes by workers regarding what employees say is unacceptable mental health care.

“The (National Union of Health Care Workers) argues that Kaiser is breaking California law and violating clinical standards by making patients wait months to start treatment and four to eight weeks between appointments,” Health Care Dive, an online health information source, reported in August. “California law requires health plans to provide care to be provided out of the network if timely access to mental health services is not available from in-network providers.”

It’s a system that has never worked well, often leaving communities to fend for themselves. Fortunately, Sonoma meets this challenge in a big way.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on our mental well-being — and where the healthcare system has let us down.

Children are in need more than ever, and the Sonoma Valley Unified School District has made significant strides in centering social-emotional learning in a variety of ways, such as building Wellness centers filled with counselors and soothing activities.

Behavioral health is a more common point of discussion among students, staff, and the board, helping to normalize what was once highly stigmatized.

Likewise, the Sonoma Valley Boys & Girls Club, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, and even Pets Lifeline are among the many local nonprofits that have created programs to support youth mental health.

We watch with excitement the developments at Hanna Center, where at least 17 organizations come together under the umbrella of the Sonoma Valley Mental Health Collective to address a wide range of community needs. Group therapy and individual therapy will be covered by insurance when available, or offered on a very affordable sliding scale.

It will be a hub of care and education, like the recent talks of national breed experts Ibram X Kendi and Resmaa Menakem. He is fast becoming a beacon of hope for countless people who are suffering alone right now.

Even the Sonoma Valley Fire Department recognizes the psychological strain the staff face, highlighted by its adorable new addition – Koda, the therapy dog.

While he may look like a cute face, his months of training allow him to sense stress and deal with it in the moment, hopefully before it can settle deep into his psyche, which which has been shown in studies to provide long-term benefits for people who are intoxicated. stressful or traumatic workplaces.

With each of these programs, we add more sunshine to the dark corners of mental illness, shedding light on its realities, its complexities and, most importantly, the steps we can take as a community to care for our own when the larger system fails us.

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