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City Receives $1.5 Million to Tackle "Behavioral Health Needs"

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By Jorge Casuso

January 6, 2023 -- Santa Monica has another $1.5 million to address the "behavioral health needs" of the homeless as part of the $1.7 trillion Appropriations Act signed last month, City officials said.

The funding was requested by U.S. Representative Ted Lieu as part of $22,601,025 in Community Project Funding for local projects in his district, which includes Santa Monica.

“These projects will help tackle some of the most pressing needs in our district including providing mental health and housing care for vulnerable people,” Lieu said.

The Santa Monica funding will be used to convert an existing City-owned facility into a behavioral health center to accommodate 24/7 intakes from first responders and local emergency rooms, City officials said.

The initial phase of the 24/7 center will focus on people experiencing homelessness, officials said.

“This funding is critical given the national fentanyl crisis and our ongoing challenges with isolation coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and homelessness," said Mayor Gleam Davis.

The City has brought in the public benefit corporation Initium Health to "lead public engagement and analyze different models of behavioral health care for Santa Monica," officials said.

Initium will kick of the process by interviewing community leaders and subject matter experts, followed in the coming months with public listening sessions.

The firm will make recommendations to the Council based on its findings by fall 2023, officials said.

Some of the funding will also be used to help plan a mental health campus on the Westside spearheaded by Santa Monica ("Saint John's Plan Includes $10 Million for New Mental Health Campus," March 28, 2022).

In March, the City took a major step in funding the initial steps of the campus -- which will help tackle substance abuse, trauma and other mental health issues -- when it secured $10 million from Providence Saint John's Health Center.

The campus is based on a successful program in Orange County that City officials hope will help address the homelessness crisis sweeping the Los Angeles region.

It already has received support from hospitals and other government entities, said former Mayor Sue Himmelrich, the driving force behind the project.

"Every step that moves us closer to an actual facility is a step in the right direction," she said of the latest federal funding.

The new funding further extends Santa Monica's extensive network of homeless services and programs that costs the City an estimated $42.5 million a year ("City Spends More than $40 Million on Homelessness But Lacks Way to Gauge Progress," December 1, 2022).

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