Santa Barbara High Grad takes the reins of behavioral wellness


Of the many chess pieces on the Santa Barbara County jurisdictional board, few are as important as the Department of Behavioral Wellness, which provides mental health services and addiction treatment to approximately 10,000 patients, most of which are considered low income. . With little fanfare, county overseers announced the appointment of Antonette “Toni” Navarro as the new director of this high-level department.

Navarro grew up in Santa Barbara, attended Santa Barbara High School, and received his Masters of Education from UCSB. She would come back to Santa Barbara every year to celebrate Día de los Muertos with her family. But for the past 15 years, Navarro, a marriage and family therapist by training, has held leadership positions for Tri-Cities Mental Health, an unusual joint authority that provides mental health services to low-income residents of Pomona. , La Verne and Claremont. There, she was clinical director and then chief executive of an agency which, shortly before her arrival, found itself in debt of $ 25 million and on the verge of bankruptcy. His executive predecessor there is credited with stabilizing things, but it was under Navarro’s watch that the debt was finally paid off.

She takes control of a department that was once compared to Afghanistan by a former county supervisor, which meant ungovernable. That was, however, before outgoing director Alice Gleghorn, who announced her retirement in April, took the reins of the Santa Barbara department, stabilized it and changed her name to Behavioral Wellness. Famous for his unadorned style and demeanor, Gleghorn has done a lot, but just as famous didn’t get along with the Santa Barbara group of mental health advocates.


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Lynne Gibbs, local chapter chief of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), expressed cautious optimism, saying of Navarro: “I am impressed with his clinical experience,” adding: “We look forward to working with him. it in a supportive setting. Partnership.”

Supervisor Das Williams is much more exuberant in his excitement over the arrival of Navarro, who exclaimed that Navarro was “hitting doubles, triples and home runs” during his interview. Navarro was one of 29 candidates for the post, one of 12 who were interviewed and one of four interviewed more than once. Williams praised Gleghorn for fixing many ailing “nuts and bolts” of a service and significantly added treatment options to the infrastructure. Even so, however, the county’s mental health facility – for people who pose an imminent threat to themselves or others – still only has 16 beds, a number that has not increased at all in the past. 45 years old.

Navarro takes over a department with a department of 143 million dollars per year with 403 full-time employees. It provides mental health services to 7,476 clients and drug and alcohol treatment to 3,106 others. Currently, 149 clients are under supervision, including 88 in locked establishments and 12 in public hospitals. Whatever the burning issue – from homelessness to criminal justice reform – behavioral well-being invariably finds itself inextricably involved.

“We want a department where there are no wrong doors,” said supervisor Williams. “We’re not there yet.”


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