July 19, 2022


Guest Blog by CA Alliance Member, Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services


Mental Health Care is not monolithic. It does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. It is a complex issue that requires us to consider the historical context, disadvantages, and cultural stigma precluding many Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous people from accessing the care they desperately need. Since its inception in 2008, BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month (in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell and formerly known as Minority Mental Health Month) has sought to establish a new inclusive standard for mental health care by making known the barriers facing the BIPOC community and the actionable items helping to remove them. 


Cost of care is one of the most prohibitive factors for a low or middle-income family in need of support. While Medi-Cal has made significant strides in providing more families with the care they need, many do not qualify for any government-funded mental health program. Many of the individuals and families we serve are uninsured, or their health insurance plans only allow for a limited number of sessions, which is usually not enough to address complex problems—especially in the high-risk populations we serve. Sliding scale services based on a family's income is offered by each of our mental health division’s address this barrier and reduce the financial strain of accessing mental health care.


According to multiple studies, the stigma surrounding mental health care can also be a prime determinant for if a person will seek care. Field-based services allow us to minimize barriers to access care for clients who may not otherwise seek services in a traditional mental health setting. It enables us to meet clients “where they are” and provide an array of services such as individual therapy, parent support, family therapy, case management, and linkage. An example is the multilingual Reflective Parenting Group that regularly meets in the community center of a popular park and provides families with an opportunity to meet with members of their community, strengthening community bonds and normalizing mental health care. 


Mental health issues are shaped by a person’s life experiences. Those in the BIPOC community have historically faced unique barriers to accessing the mental health care every person has the right to accessAddressing a historical trend of trauma impacting BIPOC stemming from prejudice and discrimination is one of the primary aims of Vista Del Mar's Diversity Inclusion Equity Justice and Belonging (DEIGJB) committee. Formed by Chantilly Wijayasihna, Director of our mental health division Family Service of Santa Monica, the committee aims to dismantle oppressive structures through expanded staff education and open dialogue. By engaging Vista leadership to achieve this goal, inclusive practices can be established agency-wide, making way for a broader representation in leadership roles, equitable pay, and increased staff retention.


Within two centuries, Vista Del Mar has evolved from its origins as a Jewish Orphanage to emerge as a vocal community leader serving children and families in our Los Angeles Community subject to societal disadvantages. Ascertaining access to equitable mental health care for the children and families we serve is central to our mission as we firmly believe mental heal this the basis of achieving healthy family dynamics, relationships, and educational access.


BIPOC mental health is central to what we do at Vista in that a majority of who we serve are members of the BIPOC community. Our mission is to ensure that people can live healthy and productive lives, and mental health is central to that. Mental health issues are foundational as it is the basis of achieving healthy family dynamics, relationships, and educational access. To meet these changing needs, we adapted our programs to overcome several of the most significant barriers to accessing mental health care. 


We must continue talking loudly about our mental health needs, but consider who is receiving the message. Let us amplify our voices so that it reaches out to a broader diversity of communities. How do we change the landscape of mental health for more people? Educate yourself, volunteer in communities, take on mentorship roles and share BIPOC voices. Together, if we can collectively organize, we can counteract centuries of disparity and create lasting changes to the mental health landscape for BIPOC. Vista Del Mar will continue to use every resource in its disposal to get this message out and create sustainable environments for individuals and families in the BIPOC community to seek help.

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