.Youth Mental Health Program Approved

The Children’s Crisis Stabilization Unit and Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program will address the ongoing county-wide crisis

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan to purchase a mid-county building that will house the County’s first residential mental crisis program for youth if it passes inspection. 

The new Children’s Crisis Stabilization Unit and Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program will be located at 5300 Soquel Ave, a 20-year-old building on the campus of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s headquarters and the only remaining property the county does not yet own at that location.

Health Services Agency Director Monica Morales said that the lack of such a facility locally means that children suffering from mental health crises must be placed in out-of-county facilities, away from their friends and families.

“That’s devastating not only for the youth,” Morales said. It’s devastating for the families, and even for the system we have here.”

Morales said the program’s bilingual staff and mid-county location would allow the county to serve better Latinx youth, which she said are often underrepresented. 

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“This is such an amazing opportunity for us to really build the system of behavioral health for our youth in our community,” Morales said. 

The program will include an 8-bed crisis stabilization unit—potentially offering 2920 slots per year—and a 16-bed residential program inside the 30,000-square-foot building.

In addition to inspecting, designing and preparing the 20-year-old building, the purchase price is estimated to cost just over $15.2 million. That cost will be covered in its entirety by two grants that total more than $24.7 million. The remaining funds will go toward running the program.

County staff expects to close escrow by May, with the program estimated to begin about one year later.

“This is a critical need,” Supervisor Ryan Coonerty said. “We hear about this all the time from families in crisis.” 

Supervisor Zach Friend said the program would help stop young people suffering from mental health issues from becoming embroiled in the criminal justice system.

“Having this facility will completely change the trajectory for a number of families in our community, unfortunately for a need that continues to grow,” Friend said. 

County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios said that building a new facility–rather than purchasing an existing building–would double the cost for the County.

“If we were trying to build a building from the ground up, we would still be trying to raise funds,” he said.

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