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Supervisors move to provide mental health services to Veterans

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion Tuesday to implement mental health services across the county, including the Santa Clarita Valley, for veterans and their families. 

“Our county community members understand that our service members and veterans face significant challenges when they return home,” 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a news release. “We must help our veterans attain the housing and services they have rightfully earned. Navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs, Cal Vet, or community-based organizations should not hinder them from receiving help.”

Because the motion was passed, the board will direct the Department of Mental Health to hire 40 full-time employees and recruit and hire 52 others for the advancement of services for veterans throughout the county, according to the agenda report. 

“These teams will serve as community navigators and/or access agents for veterans and their

families, providing support in the areas of homelessness and mental health to ensure expedient access to treatment and services,” the agenda report says. 

Barger, whose district includes the Santa Clarita Valley, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas first introduced this motion in February 2018 as an effort to address the needs of vulnerable veterans and their families. From there, the board directed the Department of Mental Health to study the issues veterans face in the county, according to Roberto Álvarez, Barger’s special assistant for military and veteran affairs. Then, they were expected to report back with recommendations on how to establish a veteran peer access network, or VPAN. 

“VPAN would empower veterans to help fellow veterans, as well as create an enriched set of resources seamlessly accessible to VPAN, including health and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, legal services and housing,” the agenda report says. 

The two main focuses of the network are to combat veteran suicide and homelessness, Álvarez said. 

In May 2018, the item was revisited and the board approved a motion to have the Mental Health Department and other stakeholders implement the recommendations from February 2018. 

On Tuesday, the board voted to have the director of mental health work with Southern California GrantMakers to create a public-private partnership to help implement the services to veterans, all under the board’s direction. This agreement will be active for three years for a total of $13.8 million. 

In 90 days, the director of mental health will report back to the board, providing the supervisors with a comprehensive update on the establishment of these new services for veterans, according to the agenda report.

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