Pending approval from the President, one nonprofit in Turlock could benefit greatly from Congressman Josh Harder’s presence on the House Appropriations Committee after it approved several of his proposed funding projects this week.
The committee on Thursday approved $300,000 in funding for First Behavioral Health Urgent Care in Turlock, along with $3.8 million for local projects which will bring more shelter beds to the region and provide mental health outreach in Stanislaus County communities and schools.
The ability to request funding for projects in his community came thanks to Harder’s new seat on the Appropriations Committee, to which he was appointed in December. As the first Central Valley Democrat to serve on the committee in nearly 50 years, the Turlock native is in a unique position to acquire funding for the local community and was able to submit a total of 10 projects for the fiscal year 2022.
“We’re finally getting the voice of the Valley listened to,” Harder said. “...We have to work 10 times as hard to get the Central Valley’s priorities represented in budget bills like this one.”
First Behavioral Health is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses charitable dollars to knock down mental health barriers in the community, providing on-site school counseling, psychiatry and medication services, telehealth visits and bilingual services for those who may otherwise go without help. The $300,000 in funding will help the nonprofit establish the Mental Health Access Project, which would help serve an additional 900 individuals in one year alone and specialize in the care of underserved Hispanic and youth populations.
In order to achieve this, the request for funding will allow the organization to hire one Spanish-speaking licensed behavioral health clinician and one Spanish-speaking administrative employee who will focus on the execution and operations. The Mental Health Access Project will also create a publicity campaign to raise awareness about mental illness symptoms and decrease stigma that often dissuades people, especially in communities of color, from accessing mental health services.
This is a much-needed service, Harder said, as only about half of Californians who deal with mental health issues seek out help. He hopes the funding can help community members and Turlock youth, just as the American Rescue Act funding helped Julien Elementary double the number of mental health clinicians on campus.
“That really struck me that we’re seeing so many of our kids across our community that have struggled over the last year not getting the help they need over Zoom. It really does feel that everywhere I've gone across our city, everyone wants to talk about how hard a time COVID was and how difficult it is to actually get access to services,” Harder said. “I think this is really important...There’s a lot of work left to do.”
By increasing access to culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed treatment in Spanish, thus providing early intervention and services for a population that’s been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, it’s Harder’s hope that this potential funding will fill an urgent service gap and treat individuals before their needs become so severe that they require County help.
“We have to treat mental healthcare the same way we treat physical healthcare,” he said. “It has the same impacts, and it really is just as imp if not more so and I think this is a recognition of what we’ve seen before us for a long time.”
Harder embarked on a listening tour earlier this month to hear what issues the community prioritized, and mental health was at the top of the list. Other priorities he hopes to address in the coming months — and years — include homelessness, drought, public safety, job creation and more.