On May 12, 150 guests filled the Santa Barbara Woman’s Club at Rockwood on to gain insight about youth mental health and raise funds for Family Service Agency (FSA) of Santa Barbara County, which includes the Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center and Guadalupe’s Little House by the Park. Another 80 people participated in a free online simulcast. The event raised more than $147,000 to support programs for underserved children, families and seniors.
After an outdoor reception with music and appetizers, FSA’s CEO, Lisa Brabo, opened the program and captivated the audience with a story about a foster-care student, Angelica, who struggled with depression and low self-esteem.
“Through twice-weekly meetings with an FSA therapist, Angelica worked through her experiences, building coping skills and slowly learning to trust others,” relayed Brabo. “She recently reunited with her mother and both are invested in repairing their relationship.”
In addition to basic needs support and parent education, FSA provides mental health counseling for those aged five and older. Since the pandemic, FSA has been experiencing an increase in the number of people being referred to therapy as well as the severity of cases. More children and adolescents are experiencing challenges to emotional wellbeing, including documented increases in anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
“We see the impacts of this youth mental health crisis on children, parents, teachers, and the whole community,” states Brabo. “This event provided an opportunity for community members to become more informed and unified in supporting the mental health of our youth.”
Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month, the event featured keynote speaker and triple-board certified psychiatrist, Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson. A Harvard graduate and gifted educator, Dr. Vinson oversees educational experiences at Emory and Morehouse School of Medicine. She is passionate about sharing skills and knowledge gained through her clinical and teaching experiences.
Dr. Vinson discussed how social determinants such as food and housing insecurity, lack of resources, and social acceptance impact mental health, “The groups that were already marginalized have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic…So much about helping a child be well depends where they live, work, play and learn. That is what we mean about serving the whole person.”
FSA programs ensure access to food, shelter, and other basic needs, holistically serving families through case management, parent education, advocacy and a wide-array of mental health programs. Thanks to support from the community, no one is denied access to services due to inability to pay.
This event was sponsored by multiple FSA supporters and mental health advocates including Tania and John Burke, Marni and Michael Cooney, Santa Barbara Foundation, Ginny and Tim Bliss, Zora and Les Charles, Montecito Bank & Trust, Union Bank, Jill and John Bishop, Dignity Health, Tisha Ford, Jane and Fred Sweeney, Carole MacElhenny, Liz and Andrew Butcher, and CenCal Health. For a full list of sponsors visit fsacares.org/sarah-vinson.
FSA is still accepting donations as part of its spring appeal. To donate, visit fsacares.org/supportus.
Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County (FSA) is a nonprofit social service agency that has served the people of Santa Barbara County since 1899. Operating as Santa Maria Valley Youth and Family Center (SMVYFC) in Santa Maria and Little House By The Park (LHP) in Guadalupe, FSA helps the community’s most vulnerable children, families, and seniors meet their basic needs while simultaneously addressing mental health needs. Through this holistic approach, FSA improves the strength and well-being of our community. All services are provided free or on a sliding fee/donation scale and no one is denied assistance because of an inability to pay. Visit fsacares.org or call (805) 965-1001 for more information.