Mental Health Services convene for Atascadero town hall

ATASCADERO — Heading into the holidays and the New Year can be a predictably rough season for individuals who already feel in control of their mental health. For those suffering from a few issues, it’s that much easier to become overwhelmed.

Luckily there is quite a bit of help available if one knows where to look, and the County of San Luis Obispo recently brought many of those resources under one roof.

Representatives of nearly all programs under the auspices of San Luis Obispo County’s Behavioral Health Department gathered in the Atascadero Community Library’s Community Room on Tuesday, Dec. 18, for a public update under the requirements of California’s Mental Health Services Act (MHSA).

Scheduled to last from 5 to 6:30 p.m. they had a lot to squeeze in, and characteristic of a room full of people with the responsibility for the public’s mental health resting on their shoulders, Behavioral Health’s Prevention and Outreach Division Manager, and their MHSA Coordinator, Frank Warren handled minor delays and technical glitches with gentle humor.

Though the meeting was open to walk-ins, the vast majority of the “stakeholders” attending came from the nonprofit arena or mental health professions. Programs based in San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande were presented as part of the Countywide update, being in Atascadero, speakers took care to highlight services in the North County, with recent additions in Atascadero and Paso Robles.

Most of the details encapsulated in memorized facts and PowerPoints from seven different presenters are also part of the 169-page annual update available on the County’s website at:

While Warren encouraged everyone present to download the document at their leisure, it was understood that not all members of the public have an inclination to look at program finances and three-year plans.

Items which might be of immediate use to residents of Northern SLO County include a growing number of mental health support groups with different specializations operating out of four wellness centers from Transitions Mental Health Association (TMHA), accessible through their clearinghouse for crisis services, the SLO Hotline at 1-800-783-0607; free youth and teen counseling for those aged 15 to 22 who might not otherwise have therapy access (805-781-4290); The Link - Family Resource Center (FRC) endeavouring to provide assistance to families in need for everything from housing and clothing to parent education and academic tutoring (in Atascadero, 805-466-5404); and “Friday Night Live” club activities in area middle schools through the County’s Prevention and Early Intervention programs (in Atascadero, 805-781-4289).

With TMHA particularly, their facilitator Meghan Madsen wanted to promote two new groups in Paso Robles which, like all of their support groups doesn’t necessarily mean an individual needs to be in crisis to participate in. “Coping with Anxiety and Depression” and “Living Mentally Well” both meet at their site on Riverside Avenue and offer strategies in line with their titles. She can be reached at 805-503-0350.

An interesting aside in the list of activities the Behavioral Health Department has engaged in this year, not all programs entail seeking out those in need directly.

Educational programs, particularly with Trauma Informed Care as a framework, have grown in use among workers who interact with the public. The Regional Transit Authority and County Library system, in particular, have had a large portion of their staff take part in education in dealing with mental illness.

While the list of participants is by no means limited to those professions, they stand out as de facto social workers dealing with the public on a daily basis.

Taking note that they were meeting in a public library building, Warren gave a “shout out” to the SLO County Library system, adding that they were one of the few agencies to have taken advantage of almost every training available.

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