Insight believes that this is a great initiative and that Santa Clarita should have this.
Headed by the organization MATT (Mental Assistance for Teens,Today!), members of the community and other organizations have urged the City Council to approve the creation of a teen mental health unit at Henry Mayo.
The call for these services comes as Henry Mayo plans to expand their services and construction to include 92 new patient beds. Advocates for teen mental health encourage this expansion to include in-patient care for teens experiencing mental health crises.
“Because we don’t have a facility anywhere close to Santa Clarita, we have to send teens far away to places outside Santa Clarita,” said Dr. Larry Schallert, Assistant Director of Student Health & Wellness and Mental Health Wellness at College of the Canyons. “It can be disconcerting for youths to have to go far away. It would be ideal for us to have a behavioral health unit in Santa Clarita so families and friends can visit loved ones and be close to home.”
The current procedure in Santa Clarita for teens experiencing mental health issues and requiring hospitalization is for the patient to be evaluated at Henry Mayo hospital and evaluated in their Behavioral Unit. If in-patient treatment is determined to be needed, the patient will have to find a bed somewhere outside of Santa Clarita and be transported there.
Schallert described the process as “extremely difficult” as beds for adolescent mental health patients are hard to find and obtain. The long process comes into conflict with patients experiencing timely and immediate issues: “If a teen is experiencing suicidal thoughts, a mental break or a danger to others, waiting for a transfer could take hours. Transportation could be hours as well. You’re just not being cared for.”
Kerri Mitchel, a Santa Clarita resident whose young daughter needed mental health care and hospitalization reported that after being evaluated at Henry Mayo, transportation became an issue.
“They couldn’t find a bed for her anywhere. They eventually found one in Torrance and they took her in the back of the ambulance,” Mitchel said. “She was an hour-and-a-half away and it was hard to make the drive to even bring her a change of clothes.”
According to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Mental Health Team (MET) the average wait time at Henry Mayo for mental health treatment is 63 minutes as of 2020.
“Parents are struggling and uncomfortable about going to a different community hospital they are not familiar with. We need to make these experiences as less traumatic as possible,” said Frederick Schulin, Owner of the Insight Teen Treatment Center, a teen mental health and substance abuse center in Santa Clarita.
In 2020, Santa Clarita accounted for 792 of the LAUSD MET responses. According to MET, 348 hospital referrals were given to Henry Mayo in response to a mental health crisis.
In addition to providing a local space for treatment, local leaders state that a mental health unit at Henry Mayo would help to support and provide more resources for other organizations and services in SCV, such as those at College of the Canyons and at Insight.
The implementation of in-patient care for adolescents would require a number of new resources from the hospital, creating an issue of funding and access. The hospital hopes that its expansion plan of more patient beds is a step in the direction of a comprehensive solution to teen mental health.
“Our proposed new diagnostic and in-patient buildings may provide a future option, although it is not timely,” Henry Mayo said in a public statement. “Furthermore, there are many operational issues, related to obtaining clinical licensing and appropriate staffing for adolescent mental health services, that need to be addressed.”
Advocates hope that the City discusses and works to formulate a plan with Henry Mayo to create in-patient mental health care for teens. Organization MATT is looking for people willing to speak at City Council meetings to bring awareness to the issue.
Schulin encouraged parents to also speak out about the issue and push for these resources: “Parents in the community should voice their opinions. Santa Clarita is a community for families. The community should build on that and be able to offer teen treatment.”
As a parent who experienced the reality of teen mental health in Santa Clarita Valley in her own family, Mitchell supported the proposal.
“I strongly suggest and am in favor of having a unit for teens here in Santa Clarita,” Mitchel said. “We have enough people who are struggling in the community for it to make a difference.”
The City Council is set to discuss the proposal at their city council meeting on April 20.