According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), about one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Additionally, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada. However, between 70 and 90 percent of the individuals who are treated for their illness experience a reduction in symptoms and an improved quality of life. Community members in Tulare County now have a centralized location as an option for mental health services and alcohol and other drug treatment; the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency recently opened its new Visalia Adult Integrated Clinic and Visalia Recovery Center (VAIC/VRC).
Formerly the Fairway Market, the VAIC/VRC building is centrally located in Visalia to provide easy access. It sits on the corner of Santa Fe Street and Tulare Avenue, near downtown Visalia and the Visalia Bus Depot, and is close to several of the Tulare County Mental Health supportive housing programs. The building was restructured to house mental health services and alcohol and other drug treatment staff under one roof. The new building will also house the Psychiatric Emergency Team, Mental Health Court mental health staff, some TulareWORKs staff, and a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) community team. Also, this new facility provides space to begin offering peer-delivered services to clients, such as service orientation, peer-led groups, and community transition assistance. Peers in the process of recovery are excellent role models and have much experiential knowledge to share with other peers in dealing with common concerns and problems.
With the new location comes a new service delivery model. The county is redesigning its mental health service delivery to emphasize wellness, recovery, and resiliency. Services will meet the consumer where they are in their wellness and recovery process. Staff are forming six teams to support consumers in their wellness and recovery: an Outreach and Engagement Team, which works in the community providing outreach to individuals who experience difficulty in seeking out and accessing mental health services; a Welcoming and Accessibility Team that focuses on ensuring all consumers receive timely access from the start, which allows the Visalia Adult Integrated Clinic to accept walk-ins throughout the day; two mental health treatment teams that focus on consumers who are at vulnerable points in their journey of wellness and recovery and need intensive and frequent services; a Recovery-Oriented Service Team, which focuses on mental illness education, increasing wellness and recovery supports, and teaching resiliency techniques to consumers; and a Peer-Delivered Services Team hosted by peers. This team approach enables staff and peers to focus on the unique needs of the approximately 1,600 consumers served quarterly at VAIC.
While treatment teams focus on the unique needs of the consumers, the integration of services allows for a focus on the diverse support needs of the consumers. In this new location, consumers can receive mental health and crisis services, assistance with TulareWORKs and SSI benefits, substance abuse prevention and treatment services, peer support and mentorship, and advocacy through NAMI, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Navigating multiple services can be cumbersome and frustrating, which in turn can exacerbate symptoms and ultimately lead to consumers not seeking the needed services. The one-stop approach offered by the integration of services is crucial for consumers with complex needs that span several different programs.
Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. If you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness, please reach out. VAIC is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00am to 6pm and walk-ins are welcome.
Timothy Durick, Psy.D., is the director of the Tulare County Mental Health Department.