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Sanctuary Centers

Organization Mission

Since 1976, Sanctuary Centers has been proudly providing comprehensive mental health care services in the community of Santa Barbara. We offer evidence-based alternatives to the norms of modern mental health care. Rather than forcing clients to choose between intense in-patient hospitalization and inadequate outpatient treatment plans, we offer a community-based continuum of care that includes a varied range of practices and services to anyone adversely affected by mental illness.

We have served over 10,000 adults living with mental illness, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders (both a mental health and substance use diagnosis.) Sanctuary has expanded and adapted its services over the years to respond to ever-changing community needs. Today, we offer a comprehensive continuum of care including inpatient treatment, outpatient services, supportive housing, and integrated health care.

Social Change Project:

Sanctuary Centers has identified three current, critical needs of adults living with mental health and substance use disorders in the Santa Barbara region and beyond: a dramatic shortage of affordable supportive housing; significant barriers to preventative health care; and limited specialized counseling and support services.

To address these needs, Sanctuary Centers launched a $15-million dollar initiative to build a five-story facility on property owned by Sanctuary. It is conveniently located in the heart of Santa Barbara adjacent to Sanctuary’s existing Outpatient Mental Health and Housing campus. It will nearly double the number of apartments; expand the Integrated Health Care Clinic and Co-occurring Disorders Center; increase group and individual therapy rooms; and provide much needed community activity space which will create recreational activities and other social opportunities.

Our initiative will address the following:

1.        Shortage of affordable housing: There are currently 80 individuals on a waiting list for supportive independent living apartments. It takes an average of one year for someone to obtain permanent housing in one of Sanctuary’s apartments. While waiting, they may have to remain in more restrictive and costly programs, with families that are not equipped to provide the care they need, or end up on the streets. This delay can sometimes result in a deterioration of their mental health resulting in hospitalization or imprisonment. This is a tremendous cost to the local community.

It costs $86 per day to house a person in jail, $800 per day to house a person in a private healthcare facility and $1,600 per day to house a person at a hospital.

Solution: The new building will include a total of 34 new studio apartments! 24 of which will be independent living units with wrap-around services similar to those already operated by Sanctuary. The remaining 10 units will be supported, independent living units. These specialized units will enable Sanctuary to provide a higher level of 24/7 care than previously possible. It is designed for clients who require a highly supportive, yet independent housing environment. The individual units surround a common living, dining, and kitchen area to build community, support, and comradery among tenants.

It only costs $28 per day to house a person in permanent supportive housing, saving the community between $58 and $1,572 per person per day. Therefore, by adding 34 supportive housing units, our community is saving between $719,780 and $19,508,520 per year.

2.       Barriers to preventative and integrated health care: The current Integrated Care Clinic is at full capacity with an average wait time of two to five weeks for a medical appointment and four weeks for a dental appointment. Given that this is the only clinic of its kind—the need to expand the space and hours will allow for much needed walk-in services. The demand for services at the Integrated Care Clinic has far exceeded the capacity.

Solution: A new and greatly expanded Integrated Care Clinic will be incorporated into the new facility, doubling the number of medical and dental exam rooms, reducing wait times significantly, and increasing the number of clients that can be seen each year. Clients will receive their care from medical, dental, and behavioral health professionals well versed in the unique diagnoses of mental illness. The new facility will also be open 14 hours per day, 7 days per week.

3.       Limited specialized services for those living with co-occurring disorders: The need for Sanctuary’s inpatient and outpatient services specifically for individuals experiencing co-occurring disorders has grown exponentially in recent years. As the recognition of the intersection of substance use disorders and mental health issues has become more widely accepted, the siloed treatment approach to each is becoming outdated. However, Sanctuary’s ability to meet this growing need is at capacity, and without increased physical space, services will remain stagnant.

Solution: The new building will nearly double the amount of square footage for Sanctuary’s Co-Occurring Disorders Program. This expansion will allow us to work with hundreds more clients every year!

Sanctuary Centers was established with the sole purpose of helping individuals with mental illness regain independence in their lives. Many things have changed since that time, medications have improved, therapies have changed, the recognition of the intersection that so often exists between mental illness and substance abuse has risen dramatically, and our jails have become the largest housing provider for the mentally ill.  What has not changed is the stigma that these individuals face when seeking housing and employment. These opportunities are so limited that thousands of individuals with mental illness do not get the care and treatment they need.

Every day Sanctuary Centers sets out to break down barriers, create opportunities, provide safe and secure housing, and help individuals regain their lives, their self-respect and contribute to the community in meaningful ways.

The Get Well Initiative will help countless more individuals with mental illness have that chance.

Please support our efforts to help make this a reality.

“The two themes that I hear at Council every Tuesday are homelessness and housing. Now—how do we address those together? As this project moves forward…this is an important project to do just that,” Deborah Schwartz, Santa Barbara Planning Commissioner.

- Deborah Schwartz