West Oakland Health Receives Mental Health Services Grant
West Oakland Health (WOH) was just awarded a Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) grant. Over the next three years, WOH will partner with St. Mary’s Center, a West Oakland-based and volunteer-led neighborhood organization dedicated to improving the well-being of Seniors and Preschool Families, to build out a robust PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active Rewarding Lives) program.
PEARLS is a brief, time-limited, and participant-driven program that educates older adults about depression and helps them develop the skills they need for self-sufficiency and more active lives and was developed by the University of Washington. The program includes primary and behavioral health medical care; in-home services; prescription drugs; specialty care such as dentistry, optometry, podiatry, and speech therapy; respite care; transportation; adult day services, including nursing, meals, nutritional counseling, social work, personal care, and physical, occupational, and recreational therapies; and hospital and nursing home care, when necessary.
This program is of vital importance to the community because older adults need services to support depression and isolation. Alameda County Behavioral Health’s “Mental Health Services Act Three-Year Program and Expenditure Plan for Fiscal Year 2020-2023” states that older adults (age 65 and over) make up 13.8% of the population in Alameda County, and only 3.8% of county mental health clients which suggests that the existing delivery system may not be meeting the needs of older adults.
Housing-insecure, older adults of color, particularly Black housing-insecure older adults need mental health services across the entire continuum of care. The number of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness has been steadily increasing. The last Point-in-Time Count conducted in February 2022 shows that 9,747 individuals in the county were experiencing homelessness. While only 10% of the county’s population is Black, 43% of people experiencing homelessness are Black. Over half (52%) of the county’s homeless population is in Oakland. Two-thirds of sheltered individuals in Alameda County live in Oakland, 25% have mental health issues and 60% of sheltered individuals in Oakland are Black. County-level data shows that 49% of housing-insecure individuals report having psychiatric or emotional conditions and 42% report having post-traumatic stress disorder.
Our proposed model will implement PEARLS at each of our organizations. Instead of embedding it within our existing infrastructure, implementing a new program with staff who are dedicated only to PEARLS will allow us to maintain the highest level of fidelity to the model and allow us to learn and understand the program and the population well before integrating it further into our existing service models. Most importantly, it will also provide a solid foundation from which to enhance our service offerings to housing-insecure older adults of color in our service areas by building capacity, developing the workforce, better understanding the needs of housing-insecure older adults of color and the operational requirements to meet these needs, which will all enable us to move towards reimbursement for services that are not currently being submitted for reimbursement.
WOH and St. Mary’s plan to launch PEARLS in the fall (September-October) of 2023 and will utilize the grant funding through 2026. In addition to implementing PEARLS in Alameda County, WOH and St. Mary’s will use it as the basis for building a reimbursable continuum of care for older adults and work towards making it sustainable beyond the grant period.