One Turlock nonprofit foundation could soon have the funding to help hundreds more through mental health services after the organization was included in Congressman Josh Harder’s list of important community projects recently submitted to the House Appropriations Committee.
Harder requested $301,053 for First Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center in Turlock, one of the perks of his newfound seat on the Appropriations Committee. 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 — although only a handful may actually be approved and funded.
Harder was named to the Appropriations Committee in December, and this month announced that his funding priorities would include:
· - Expanding access to affordable mental & physical health care;
· - Combating drought and supporting agriculture and the Central Valley by building new water infrastructure;
· - Creating new and high paying Valley jobs;
· - Addressing homelessness;
· - Supporting public safety; and
· - Cutting down on Valley commute times.
“This appointment is important because it actually allows the Central Valley to have a voice in our funding priorities,” said Harder, who embarked on a “listening tour” throughout the year’s first four months in order to create the list.
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.
If approved, the over $300,000 in funding would help First Behavioral Health establish the Mental Health Access Project which would help serve an additional 900 individuals, specializing 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.
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.
Focusing on mental health funding not only addresses an area of concern that many local residents have spoken with Harder about, he said, but also can help prevent another: homelessness.
“I would say we have a shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists all across the county, and even if you have gold-plated insurance, it can be very difficult to find a provider who will take you in the Valley...” Harder said. “I think this is important for all of us because this has so many compounded effects for the health of our community overall.”
Other funding projects included in Harder’s submitted list focus on early prevention of mental health issues, and ultimately homelessness, by focusing on schools, like more money for the county’s Youth Navigation Center, which helps youth in crisis and provides them with mental health services, as well as the expansion of the county’s Promotores program, which would place outreach workers and mental health clinicians in schools throughout Stanislaus.
“We’ve really seen our students struggle over the last year…” Harder said. “I think again and again as we went through our listening tour, the need for mental health services in the Valley came across loud and clear.”
To view the full list of projects submitted by Harder to the House Appropriations Committee, which also include funding requests for public safety, water infrastructure and transportation, visit https://harder.house.gov/2021-community-projects-funding-disclosure