For those who are uninsured and in need of mental health services, the prospect of finding help is daunting. But there is a solution. Santa Clara County operates a long-time program that caters to this demographic.
It starts with a phone call to the county’s Behavioral Health Call Center. The screener determines the person’s insurance status. If they are uninsured, the individual will be referred to the Central Wellness & Benefits Center (CWBC). This is a free mental health program funded through the Mental Health Services Act.
Individuals can also connect to this program by reaching out to the county’s Navigator Program, or they can walk into Behavioral Health Urgent Care, which is located on the Valley Medical Center campus. Any one of these options is a path toward mental health support. Behavioral Health Urgent Care services are available from 7 A.M.-7 P.M. seven days a week. The facility is currently housed in the same building as CWBC, 2221 Enborg Lane in San Jose.
The Central Wellness & Benefits Center is a stand-alone behavioral health program for the uninsured that provides basic mental health services and medications, including injections if needed, as well as more extensive outpatient treatment for those who qualify. CWBC has its own team of therapists, rehabilitation counselors, psychiatrists, and peer support (individuals with lived experience who are there to help one navigate the system).
Lou Meshia Brown, M.A., LMFT, Division Manager who oversees the county’s clinical services teams and its six programs of which CWBC is one, said, “[For] individuals new to the county or have a break in their coverage, we have a benefits team dedicated to helping them go through the process to secure benefits.”
The program works with individuals 18 and older. Those with Medicare who don’t have mental health coverage, individuals on MediCal, and those with a combination of both can utilize the program as well.
CWBC assists between 600-800 people annually and Brown said even if someone comes in for mental health services and has something else happening in their lives, such as being unhoused or food insecure, CWBC has various rehabilitation counselors who can direct them to other community resources.
“It has been a great resource for those in the community, especially for those who would otherwise be marginalized,” Brown said.
The center’s clinical outpatient services are available throughout the county, offering various tiers of service. They range from light touch that may just require medications to intensive outpatient programs at a high touch level.
“All it takes is a call to the Behavioral Health Call Center to connect,” Brown said, emphasizing individuals can come to the program as a self-referral, through a loved one’s referral, or through an early intervention program.
Brown said this is one of the most critical adult programs in the county system.
“These individuals are the most vulnerable with the greatest need,” she said, “and we provide the exact same care they would get in any of our other outpatient programs.”
She acknowledges that the process of finding mental health services can be overwhelming, especially when someone is in crisis.
“If you need help we are here. Please reach out. No one should suffer alone, suffer in silence, “ she said. “There is a community of resources available for you.”
To reach the Central Wellness & Benefits Center, call 408-885-6220, open Monday-Friday 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. (This is not a crisis center.)
To reach Behavioral Health Urgent Care, call 408-885-7855.
To reach the Behavioral Health Call Center, call 800-704-0900 and press 1.