May is Mental Health Awareness Month: CenCal Health Urges Acknowledgement and Treatment

Largest Health Plan on Central Coast Offers Services, Resources Year-Round

Less well known is the lime green ribbon, which is the international symbol of support for those living with mental illness. 

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, CenCal Health urges the community to acknowledge the signs of mental distress and seek help if needed for themselves or a loved one. Conditions such as depression or anxiety are real, common and treatable. As the largest health plan in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, CenCal Health offers a range of mental health benefits and services to its plan members, with some resources also available at no cost to the general public.  

From a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in February of this year, 21% of US adults are experiencing high levels of psychological distress. It is especially common among adults ages 18 to 29 (32%), those with lower family incomes (31%) and those who have a disability or health condition that keeps them from participating fully in work, school, housework or other activities (36%). In addition, domestic violence is up by 8.1% over March of 2020, according to the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported drug overdose deaths accelerated dramatically from 2019 to 2020.

“Without a doubt, the ongoing shutdowns, job losses, and fear of COVID-19 virus infection have affected people’s emotions and mental health,” said Dr. Karen Hord, CenCal Health Deputy Chief Medical Officer. “As we enter our second year of the pandemic, it is important that our CenCal Health members, and community members, of all ages, have access to appropriate mental health resources and services.” 

Some may ask, “What is mental health?” CenCal Health asserts that mental health includes one’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts. It also helps determine how someone handles stress, how they relate to others, and what choices they make. Mental health is important for people at every stage of life: children, adolescents, and adults.

Through its provider network, CenCal Health offers benefits to members that can include mental health assessments, individual and group counseling therapy or psychotherapy, as well as alcohol and substance use services. 

“The difference between enduring mental health difficulties alone and getting support can be night and day for patients in need,” said CenCal Health Chief Medical Officer Farid Hassanpour, DO, MBA, FAAP. “While COVID-19 may have changed how doctors serve their patients, it does not change the quality standards of care. Telemedicine appointments, for example, allow our members to receive mental health care in the safety and convenience of their homes.”

For the public, as well as plan members, CenCal Health offers a directory and a library – in English and Spanish – that address specific mental health topics, including depression and addiction. These online guides can be found at (Community Resources tab, and Health & Wellness tab) any time of the day or night and at no cost.

CenCal Health also suggests the following local resources for community members seeking help:

            A non-profit organization serving San Luis Obispo and North Santa Barbara Counties, Transitions-Mental Health Association is dedicated to eliminating stigma and promoting recovery and wellness for people with mental illness through work, housing, community, and family support services. or call (800) 783-0607.

            Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness is the hub for behavioral health assistance in the county, with a focus on individual and family strengths to maximize functioning and improve the quality of life. or call (888) 868-1649.

            If you or a family member are experiencing a mental health crisis and need help right away, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

About CenCal Health

CenCal Health is a community-accountable health plan that partners with over 1,500 local physicians, hospitals and other providers in delivering patient care to more than 200,000 members – about one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County. A public agency, the health plan contributes approximately $50 million a month into the local economy, primarily through payments to healthcare providers who serve its membership. Established in 1983, it is the oldest managed care Medicaid plan of its kind in the nation. View its annual Community Report at

 # # #

Media Contact:

Sheri Mobley (805) 845-5627, 213 509-9816

Leave a Reply