The mission of the SMWC is to support a community movement through collaboration with the schools, private sector and public agencies that reduces stigma and shame related to student mental health and substance abuse. Our goal is to identify the gaps [ages 12-26] and expand the capacity of accessible services for intervention, crisis and aftercare in order to support families whose emotional needs are currently underserved in our community and connect them to resources.

We focus on prevention and early intervention support strategies so that we are making connections for students and families with a goal of averting crisis and reducing disruption of student achievement.

We do this by working as a community to…

  • develop a protocol for resource and referral.
  • expand the capacity of accessible services.
  • create broad mental health awareness and community culture changes in order to reduce the stigma and shame and create a safe environment that allows students and parents to ask for help.

In order to bring about change, we as a community will continue to educate ourselves on the issues, learn from other communities, improve our communication and increase our coordination and collaboration efforts. We value the partnership and commitment from parents, students, schools, the county, service providers, law enforcement, funders, and community to work together towards long-term solutions.

In order to successfully implement systemic changes in our community around student mental health, we need to continue to have transparency and better communication. We need both a school and community protocol so that schools, law enforcement and service providers are responding in a consistent manner when students and parents reach out for support. We need to increase coordination & collaboration of service providers and leverage community relationships with the school districts. We need a response system that fosters communication and cooperation across sectors and provides students better access to high quality resources that are able to meet their unique mental health needs. We have many students falling through the cracks because they are able to “perform” with strong grades, playing on sports teams, etc. so they are often “invisible”.  We need to reduce the stigma and shame associated with mental health and promote a change in our community so that families feel comfortable asking for help.

We need ongoing education and trainings for service providers, parents, and teachers to create more understanding of the issues as well as to provide tools so individuals are better equipped. We need to coordinate existing opportunities for training and education utilizing our local agencies by creating an annual calendar and increasing communication. 


Role of the Committee

Committee Members

  • Committee includes parents, community leaders, school district, colleges and service providers. See attached roster.

Meeting Structure

  • Create an environment that encourages a positive exchange of ideas and promotes dialogue around expanding services to better support schools in connecting students struggling with mental health & substance abuse issues to local resources.

Committee Focus

  • Map existing youth programs and parent support and evaluate who has access, ages, fees, pros/cons and quality of programs.
  • Look for improved outcomes by identifying the gaps and barriers, and encouraging systemic changes through community collaboration and leveraging relationships to ensure all students, ages 12-26 have access to services from crisis to aftercare.
  • Work with the South County school districts to strengthen support programs within the schools and better assist the counselors who are working directly with the students.
  • Increase school-community-home collaborations in order to [1] provide parent support groups that are accessible by multiple agencies & schools [2] improve communication, education & outreach with parents (ie: look for opportunities like back to school night) [3] create a community protocol for resource & referral to be utilized by all agencies, parents and community.
  • Create a strategic plan…
    Phase 1: Introduction, create readiness, commitment & engagement
    Phase 2: Build infrastructure, capacity, and pursue initial implementation
    Phase 3: Replicate to scale, sustainability, and evolve to enhance outcomes.

Committee Members

  • Rachael Steidl, [committee chair] & Simplify And Sync founder
  • Lois Mitchell, [facilitator]
    Consultant, former Orfalea Foundation President
  • Angela Andrade,
    UCSB Associate Dean, Student Affairs & Wellness Services
  • Annmarie Cameron,
    Mental Wellness Center Executive Director
  • Isis Castaneda,
    Consultant Teen Program & Development Training
  • Gerardo Cornejo,
    Carpinteria High School Principal
  • Georgina Dahill,
    FSA School Services Supervisor
  • Charles Fenzi,
    SB Neighborhood Clinics, Chief Medical Officer
  • Suzanne Grimmesey,
    County of SB Dept of Behavioral Wellness
  • Scott Guttentag,
    DPHS Counselor & Activities Director
  • Celia Hardy,
  • Lori Hope,
    Principal of Refugio High School & SYV High Academic Intervention Specialist
  • Brian Kerr,
    SBPD Beat Coordinator & SBPAL
  • Randi Klein,
    Therapeutic & Educational Consultant
  • Gladys Koscak,
    UCSB Counseling & Psychological Services
  • Jackie Kurta,
    UCSB Alcohol & Drug Program Director & Assist Coordinator Student Mental Health Program
  • Ann Lippincott,
    UCSB Teacher, MWC Board, Mental Health Matters
  • Bill McFayden,
    Noozhawk Publisher
  • Barney Melekian,
    SB County Undersheriff & CADA Board
  • Mari Mender,
    Nurse & Parent
  • Michelle Meyering,
    SBPal Executive Director
  • Eric Nelson,
    Westmont Director of Counseling Center
  • Roxane Pate,
    SBCC Student Health & Wellness Program Advisor – Wellness Connection
  • Selena Rockwell,
    CADA Youth Services Specialist Director
  • Ginny Speirs,
    Art Teacher, Parent
  • Frann Wageneck,
    SB Unified School District Assistant Superintendent
  • Phylene Wiggins,
    SB Foundation, Senior Director Community Investments

Mental Health FAQ's

What is being done in other communities


Headspace provides early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds.

4 core areas:

  • mental health
  • physical health
  • work and study support
  • alcohol and other drug services

eheadspace is an online and telephone service that supports young people and their families going through a tough time. Hold monthly online information sessions where youth join group chats to talk on different things like sleep issues, self harm, and helping out a friend.

School Support program that works with school communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from suicide.

Learn more…

Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing

Committed to spearheading a new national vision for adolescent and young adult wellness and mental health support. Core components…
[1] Early Mental Health Support and Exceptional Clinical Care
[2] Educational and Community Partnerships
[3] Mental Health and Technology Program

Early Support Services: Symptoms in response to anxiety, depression, and trauma are generally the first mental health problems for which young people need support. In developing a new early access and intervention model in the United States with the headspace program in Australia, Stanford will create clinical sites where young people ages 12-25 feel comfortable independently accessing early support and mental health guidance in safe and comfortable environments, a critical first step toward developing a national youth model for public mental health.

The core components of the model are

  • A focus on mild to moderate mental health issues, including anxiety and depression
  • A one-stop site for access to integrated care services (mental health, physical health, substance use, and education/vocational support)
  • Accessibility—the services are affordable, de-stigmatized, appealing to youth, and confidential

The focus on mild to moderate mental health issues is a key component of what sets headspace apart from existing sources of mental health care. The current U.S. mental health system is not resourced to work with young people who have issues in this range of the spectrum, even though depression and anxiety are among the highest prevalence for this age group and early intervention is essential to preventing more serious health and academic outcomes which come at a higher financial cost.

School Partnerships: Schools are where adolescents spend most of their time. School collaborations around wellness and mental health support ensure youth are able to benefit from their educational opportunities and thrive.

Suicide Prevention and Postvention Services: Provides leadership and clinical consultation to schools in addressing suicide response and prevention related issues.

Screening, Early Intervention and School-Based Health Services: Schools frequently lack on-site health and mental health services provided by licensed mental health and health professional from the community. Stanford is developing new approaches for linking teens with early mental health issues to on-site providers.

Learn more…

UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools

To achieve mission of educating all students, schools must address barriers to learning and promote healthy development. As Carnegie Task Force on Education has stressed: School systems are not responsible for meeting every need of their students. But when the need directly affects learning, the school must meet the challenge.  

Other reasons given in advocating for mental health (MH) in schools:

  • to increase access to kids and their families for purposes of providing MH services
  • to increase availability of MH interventions (a) through expanded use of school resources (b) through co-locating community resources on school campuses (c) through combining school and community resources.
  • to encourage schools to adopt specific approaches (a) for treating specific individuals (b) for addressing problems through school-wide, “universal interventions” (c) for promoting healthy social and emotional development.
  • to improve specific processes and interventions related to MH in schools (e.g., improve systems for identifying and referring problems and for case management, enhancing “pre-referral” and early intervention programs, enhancing communication, coordination, and integration of services)

How are schools doing it currently?

  • Most schools have some programs to address a range of mental health and psychosocial concerns. Programs have been developed for purposes of early intervention, crisis intervention and prevention, treatment, and promotion of positive social and emotional development. But, the current norm related to mental health in schools is for a vast sea of advocates to compete for the same dwindling resources. This includes advocates representing different professional practitioner groups. Naturally, all such advocates want to advance their agenda. And, to do so, the temptation usually is to keep the agenda problem-focused and rather specific and narrow. This is counter-productive in that it perpetuates piecemeal and fragmented policies and practices. This continues current trends toward redundancy, competition, marginalization, and inadequate results. And, this means that only a relatively small percentage of students’ who need it are helped.

What’s what needs to change?

  • Systemic changes are needed… and must focus on ensuring that the available, sparse resources are used in ways that serve a much larger proportion of students. For this to happen, it is essential to end the fragmentation, marginalization, counter-productive competition, and costly redundancy.
    • The aim must be to weave school owned and community owned resources together to develop comprehensive, multifaceted, and integrated approaches.
    • The process must stress the importance of school-community-home collaborations.
    • And, the work must connect in major ways with the mission of schools and integrate with a restructured system of education support programs and services.
    • What can/should policy makers do to support schools in meeting the mental health needs of youth?

Learn more…

San Francisco Wellness Initiative

The San Francisco Wellness Initiative is a partnership between San Francisco Unified School District, the Department of Children, Youth and their Families, and the Department of Public Health.  [example: Balboa Teen Health Clinic]

Wellness Centers provide and link students to health care and prevention/early intervention programs and services. Provide students access to health education, reproductive health, sports physicals, mental health, and substance use services, as well as referral to primary healthcare providers. Students can self-refer or be referred by school staff or parents. Students are assessed, counseled, and referred to community service providers when appropriate.

The Student Intervention Team (SIT) works to positively impact behavior, student attendance and academic success by increasing access to quality school-based mental health services. Provides crisis support. The clinical staff is part of the triage team that provides crisis response and support to individual student crises that occur at the school sites.

Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County recently commited $600K to a youth mental-health center as an “important first step” toward providing critical early intervention and support services for youth and adolescents. It is being based on a national youth mental-health initiative in Australia called headspace, which provides early-intervention services — from physical and mental health to alcohol and other drugs, work and academic issues, to 12- to 25-year-olds at either a low cost or for free.

Chino Valley Unified School District Health Center

The goal of their program is to improve health outcomes by increasing student access to quality and comprehensive health care. Their program strives to enhance access to health care by bringing it directly to where students and families are and conducting active school-based outreach to connect students with care. They provide intensive support for the highest need students by being present on a daily basis to manage chronic disease, address behavioral health issues, deal with crises, and help students and families access resources. They provide support for the school district’s mission to improve academic achievement by working together to address absenteeism and addressing health concerns that may pose as barriers to learning.

Learn more…


Teen mental health facts

Mental illness, like physical illnesses, is on a continuum of severity ranging from mild to moderate to severe.

A mental illness is a disease of the brain that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.

Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events. Mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. Mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these.

Adolescence is a critical period for mental, social, and emotional wellbeing and development. The brain undergoes significant developmental changes, establishing neural pathways and behavior patterns that will last into adulthood. Adolescents’ developing brains, coupled with hormonal changes, make them more prone to depression and more likely to engage in risky, thrill-seeking behaviors. These factors underline the importance of meeting the mental, social, and emotional health needs of this age group.

“Your teen is self-harming for attention” is a common response which minimizes the teens cry for help. And while this may be the case, there a difference between cutting for attention and the clinically recognized rage-based cutting and that is “motivation”. Rage-based cutters actually do everything possible to hide it. Regardless of why, a self-harmer needs help.

Teen mental health disorders & suicide warning signs

Long Term Goals

Increase capacity of accessible youth services

How do we increase capacity and access to services and create a multi-agency all-inclusive support to families?

How do we increase coordination & collaboration by service providers and leverage community relationships with the school districts?

GOAL… Evaluate who currently has access, whether there is a waiting list and consider expanding the above support groups on the Secondary School Campuses and/or within the organization to create more access.

Integrate teen resilience & leadership

How do we promote mental health resilience with leadership groups aimed at teens transitioning into aftercare

GOAL… Support launch of a “multi-agency” Teen Resilience group for students in aftercare/transition.

  • A common theme for students in recovery is loneliness when they transition home from wilderness, residential treatment programs or therapeutic boarding schools, etc.
  • Parents and students need to understand the pitfalls and successes that accompany the process of integrating back into their families and communities.

Training & education

Move towards prevention and education and away from crisis.

Provide ongoing education, speakers, panels and training to parents, teachers, caregivers, community and students.

Educate high school counselors and teachers on how to respond and direct students & parents towards services.

Create multi-agency all-inclusive family support

School-Community-Home Collaborations…

Enrich community partner relationships with the school district and increase coordination & collaboration by service providers. A prevention and response system that fosters communication and cooperation across sectors can provide adolescents better access to high quality resources that are responsive to their unique mental health needs.


[1] Access to on-site, school-based mental health services in school-based health centers increases the likelihood that adolescents will receive mental health services. Provide all-inclusive support for families and create a connection to resources, services, and programs for parents and family members of struggling students that promotes a constructive partnership to support student success. Strengthen and nurture families by providing resources for the whole family [siblings] and not only the teen.

[2] Train multi-agency “PARENT TO PARENT MENTORS” where parents in recovery can be trained to advocate and provide support to parents in crisis and enhance and increase coordinated family case management.

[3] Implement PARENT SUPPORT GROUPS that facilitate a stronger family unit and create a parallel process that allows parents to grow alongside their struggling teen. Support students by supporting their parents in taking care of themselves. Support parents in advocating for their child.

Reduce stigma & shame

How do we reduce stigma and promote institutional change in our community so that families feel comfortable asking for help?


[1] Offer parent support groups so that parents can begin to connect rather than isolate.

[2] Support launch of Active Minds Clubs on every high school campus in Fall 2016.

[3] Support “More Than Sad” suicide prevention awareness program on campuses, “Interactive Screening Program” & Out of the Darkness Walk Sept 11, 2016

Create community coordinated youth & family support protocol

GOALS… Assess our existing resource and referral support and where we need to expand, collaborate and educate.