JFK University Community Counseling Centers Partner with John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund to Bring Mental Health Services to East Contra Costa County

The product of a years-long collaboration between the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund and JFK University’s Community Counseling Centers, the East Contra Costa County Mental Health Initiative (ECCMHI) provides much-needed mental-health services to underserved segments of East Contra Costa County. Through outreach efforts such as the School-Based Program and partnerships with local organizations like Meals on Wheels Senior Outreach Services, the ECCMHI delivers care directly to the families and individuals who need it most, right in their own community.

The John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund (CHF)

The John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund (CHF), the grant-making arm of John Muir Health, seeks to cultivate sustainable initiatives aimed at meeting the needs of Central and East Contra Costa County’s most underserved populations. Using a data-driven and results-oriented approach, the CHF first identifies areas of community need and then creates alliances with local service providers and stakeholders to maximize their collective impact.

East Contra Costa County Mental Health Initiative (ECCMHI)

Beginning in 2013, community health assessments began bringing to light the startling need for free or low-cost mental-health services in East Contra Costa County, an area consisting of Pittsburgh, Antioch, Oakley, and Brentwood. By one estimate, as many as 45,000 residents of East Contra Costa County may suffer from some form of mental illness. However, as recently as 2014, only a handful of local provider groups in the region offered mental-health services to low-income clientele. With most of the county’s public services being clustered around Central County, these services have remained largely inaccessible to low-income residents of East Contra Costa.

Establishing this region as a top priority, the CHF began searching for mental-health service providers with whom it could partner in bringing these services to East County. Recognizing the university’s reputation for public service and for the outstanding care provided by its Community Counseling Centers (CCC), the CHF identified JFK University as a natural ally in its mission. Working together, the CHF and the JFKU CCC established the East Contra Costa Mental Health Initiative (ECCMHI), aimed at providing underserved East County families and individuals with the mental-health care they need and deserve.

Partners in the Community

Since its inception, ECCMHI has worked to advance its mission by building relationships with community partners including non-profit organizations, government agencies, churches, and schools. By working with charitable groups such as Meals for Wheels Senior Outreach Services and La Clinica, ECCMHI and its partners are better able to coordinate efforts and take advantage of each other’s respective areas of expertise. Affiliations with churches and schools, meanwhile, aid efforts at community outreach, generate referrals, and provide facilities within the community where individuals and families may access mental-health services close to home and in a familiar, comfortable setting.

Programs Aimed at Every Need

From the School-Based Program to the In-Home Program to the Functional Family Therapy Program, the ECCMHI constantly is seeking to expand services and improve outcomes. The School-Based Program reaches students right where they spend most of their time: at school.

Program counselors – JFK University graduate students working under the supervision of licensed clinicians – teach students effective strategies for managing the many challenges facing today’s youth, helping them lead happier, healthier lives while improving academic performance and reducing truancy. The School-Based Program has partnered with academic institutions throughout Pittsburgh, Antioch, and Brentwood, from elementary schools to community colleges and all the grades in between.

“Therapy has given me the chance to learn more about myself,” reports one East Contra Costa County high-school student who participated in the School-Based Program. “I felt comfortable enough here to be my true self and have learned to be my true self with my peers and family. Even if they do not understand me or agree with what I like, I feel free.”

The new In-Home Program, recently approved by JFK University’s administration, expands the ECCMHI’s reach into the homes of clients themselves, allowing counselors to meet with housebound elders and others with limited ability to seek services outside the home.

These programs all make a real impact on the lives of real people in the local community. Launched in January 2017, ECCMHI’s Family Resiliency Project already has served 36 families, many of whom are monolingual Spanish speakers. By continually identifying areas of need and developing action plans to address them, ECCMHI aims to bring ever more services to the underserved.

A Continuing Mission to Expand Coverage and Achieve Sustainability

Looking forward, the ECCMHI aims to continue expanding its purview, reaching more underserved individuals and families, while continuing to work toward financial sustainability. Among other areas, the ECCMHI plans to further develop its capacity for providing trauma-informed services, particularly to elementary-school students. By always scouring existing programs for potential improvements while studying the landscape for areas of need, the ECCMHI continues to serve as a model of cross-organization collaboration serving the public good.