Santa Clara County Expands Mental Health Services for All Workers

An enhanced Santa Clara County program will support the mental health and well-being of county employees, particularly health care workers, according to county officials.

The countywide benefit was created in response to a 2022 proposal by Supervisor Joe Simitian calling for the formation of a program to support employees at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center who had been on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic. The new benefit not only addresses mental health for VMC employees but also expands these initiatives to all county employees.

“This is great progress,” Simitian said this week. “It goes a long way toward addressing some of the concerns that we’ve heard from our own health care workers about delays in receiving mental health care. I’m particularly pleased that while the program is designed to benefit all employees, there are programs designed specifically for health care employees, including programs focused on the needs of nurses and physicians.”

“This is the right thing to do for our employees, but it’s also essential to giving the public the quality of service they deserve,” he said in a county press release. “We can’t give the public 100% unless our workforce is 100%. This is one of those times when meeting the needs of our employees is essential to meeting the needs of our constituents.”.

Launched in December, the program offers confidential access 24 hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week, via phone or digitally, to counseling, coaching, work-life services, and online self-help.

The county has established an agreement with Concern Health, a provider of employee mental health services and comprehensive crisis and organizational support, to expand and enhance counseling and employee support services countywide. Concern, a subsidiary of El Camino Health, has a network of 960 mental health care providers in the county, with appointments in 5 to 7 business days for routine appointments and appointments within 48 hours for urgent cases.

Administrators met with county employees to obtain feedback and discuss strategies for reducing burnout, increasing retention, and developing a “wellness workplace culture.” The result was the new Concern Health - Employee Assistance Program that includes:

  • Concern Health provides free assessments, short-term counseling of up to eight visits per year per event, crisis intervention, and referrals to community resources.
  • A Critical Incident Response team can be mobilized within hours of a critical incident. The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (VMC) also contracts with the Bill Wilson Center for critical incident stress management.
  • Concern Health provides or can arrange for parenting and childcare resources, adult care resources, legal consultations, financial services, and identity theft.
  • VMC launched the Diamond Project to improve health care workforce well-being by addressing burnout and trauma.
  • The Lavender Event and Defusing Team provides support services for hospital staff affected by stress with the goal to connect with staff before they leave work after a critical incident.
  • A Behavioral Response Team will provide timely and efficient clinical expertise for interventions and de-escalation of behavioral emergencies.
  • The Nursing Wellness Committee has 120 wellness champions from various disciplines who conduct regular wellness rounds to check on and offer support to staff.
  • A Medical Staff Wellness and Burnout Task Force of clinician representatives from various departments will work with Valley Physicians Group (VPG).

“Health care workers faced unprecedented challenges and occupational stress during the pandemic,” said Simitian. “My hope is that this new effort will provide an extra measure of help for those in the health care field – and all employees struggling with mental health issues or workplace stress. I’m looking forward to watching the roll-out and working with our employees to make the program ever-better along the way.”

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