Merced County’s development of a north county Behavioral Health clinic at 7099 California Street in Winton is an exciting new project in the community, which is anticipated to significantly benefit the entire northern part of Merced County.
“Our department has been looking for a north county campus for a couple years,” said Genevieve Valentine, director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services for the Merced County Behavioral Health Department. “We have a small clinic in Livingston, but it has not been meeting the needs of the whole north side.
“By the grace of God, we had someone reach out to us and tell us the Mennonite church in Winton was for sale. I looked at the property, and Merced County Behavioral Health did purchase it. We closed escrow in November 2021.
“Our hope is to actually have the north county clinic operational by July 2023. It will take us at least 18 months to get all of the necessary work done. However, we are hoping to provide a small number of services by this Summer in Winton, but nowhere near what we’re hoping to do for the community by summer of 2023.
“Currently, Winton has very limited behavioral health services, and our hope is to have those in the Winton community apply for the jobs we’re going to have available, such as jobs for youth mentors in the Winton community. We hope our facility will breathe life into the community and provide not only Behavioral Health support but really good County jobs.”
Describing the services a Behavioral Health clinic offers, Valentine said, “Merced County Behavioral Health is the Medi-Cal provider for the moderate to severe mentally ill and those who need substance abuse treatment. We have a variety of contracts throughout the County, and we provide both outpatient and residential mental health and substance abuse treatment in order to support the needs of the Medi-Cal beneficiaries of Merced.
“We provide services for children, transitional age youth, and adults all the way to the end of life.
“We have three mobile crisis teams, one that specializes in youth, one that goes out with Law Enforcement to address the needs of adults and the homeless, and one that responds to a variety of community crisis situations.
“So, for example, when a young person is not doing well, we can evaluate them through the crisis team that specializes in youth and get them immediate stabilization for 23 hours at the Youth Crisis Stabilization Unit, and that gives the family a necessary time out. That’s at our Merced campus.
“The adult and homeless unit responds with law enforcement, and it’s embedded with the Merced DART team; this partnership tries to do outreach and engagement with the homeless and other adults in the community and provides resources as needed.
“We are trying really hard to show our community that Behavioral Health is going to be standing side by side with our community members and be the necessary support, instead of being just a building you go to.
“We are expanding and doing more and more in the schools and developing collaborative partnerships for early intervention and prevention, and we have blossoming partnerships with a variety of school districts and the Merced County Office of Education.
“We want to invest in the social/emotional well-being of our kids, and in addition to teaching them skills, build resiliency so they can see how developing healthy coping skills helps us in the long run.
“With early intervention and prevention, we start with education for the families such as teaching coping skills, and better mechanisms to deal with stressors, so rather than trying to make a child or a family feel bad, we try to de-stigmatize mental health issues.
“Kids are not always taught social/emotional regulation skills, so we teach frustration tolerance skills. We also conduct behavioral health assessments and provide treatment. It takes a little while, but a child should not be in behavioral health treatment their whole life and we need to really hone in and get them the tools and skills they need. We have to educate and support the whole family in order to heal the whole unit.
“We have a really good strong Children’s System of Care. One children’s team of care is called Strengthening Families. The whole goal of this team is to have adult mentors coach parents and coach kids and use their own life experiences to help those going through the system to navigate the Behavioral Health world. It’s parents helping parents.”