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Time Standard Article: Humboldt County to see new psychiatric facility for children and teens


Humboldt County to see new psychiatric facility for children and teens

By JACKSON GUILFOIL | | Eureka Times Standard

May 13, 2022 at 1:29 p.m.

A new mental health facility for children and teenagers is set to open in Humboldt County in early 2023, but the facility’s mobile health unit could be operational as early as this summer.

The Sorrel Leaf Healing Center, which is working with the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services, will offer mental health services for 7 to18-year-olds and will have three crisis stabilization rooms, nine residential care rooms and a continuity aftercare clinic. There is no set date for the facility’s opening.

“Humboldt County has been especially impacted by the crisis of mental health among our children and young adults; in truth, we are at its epicenter. With one of the highest rates of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in California, our rural community has a disproportionate population of traumatized families and a profound shortage of trauma-informed professionals to meet this challenge,” Evan Buxbaum, the Fortuna pediatrician who will be the executive director of the facility, said in an email.

Buxbaum noted 70% of Humboldt County residents experienced at least one adverse childhood experience, and 30% of the county population has an ACE score of 4 or above, roughly double the state average. Suicide is the leading cause of death between the ages of 15 and 24 for Humboldt County residents, he said.

Currently, the referral centers for pediatric psychiatric inpatient care closest to Humboldt County are in Santa Rosa and Redding, though state facilities are often at capacity, causing children to be sent out-of-state for treatment.

The facility’s mobile health unit would be similar to the county’s mobile response team, which aims to proactively offer case management, peer support and clinical care to county residents at risk of experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Humboldt County sits at the intersection of a lot of the nation’s unresolved social and health problems, including income inequality, higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse, historical and ongoing trauma and oppression in native communities, and a significant lack of access to medical and mental health resources,” Buxbaum said. “Our county has all of these challenges, and not enough mental health providers to meet the demand.”

The facility will exist in part because in April 2021, the Sorrel Leaf Healing Center and Humboldt County DHHS were awarded a $5.1 million grant from the California Health Facilities Financing Authority. Additionally, Providence in Humboldt County, which oversees St. Joseph Hospital and Redwood Memorial, announced a $500,000 donation for the facility on Friday.

“We’re honored to be able to support the mental health of our youth on the North Coast” Roberta Luskin-Hawk, chief executive for Providence locally, said in a prepared statement. “Caring for the most vulnerable in our community is at the core of our mission and it’s why the Sisters of St. Joseph founded our health care ministry in Eureka over a century ago.”

The facility will be staffed by psychiatric nurse practitioners, pediatric and adolescent-trained therapists, nurses, social workers and case managers. There will also be farmers, chefs and other helpers on-site, with psychiatric oversight provided through the University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

However, Humboldt County is currently experiencing a shortage of health care workers relative to the demand, though Buxbaum said he was confident that the facility would be able to find staff.

The facility will be on a 13-acre farm off Indianola Road and contains open fields, forests and allows for food cultivation and animal therapy with the farm’s sheep, rabbits, alpacas and other animals.

Humboldt County’s local hospitals have reported increased mental health crises, and in March, Mad River Hospital told the Times-Standard they were seeing a 200% increase in mental health visits compared to two years ago.

“This facility will offer intensive services to youth and their families locally and can be an alternative to out-of-county hospitalization. Youth being served at Sorrel Leaf Healing Center will get intensive help to stabilize them during a time of crisis. Simply put, this is a great opportunity for our county and our county’s youth,” Jeremy Nilsen, Humboldt County’s DHHS deputy director, said in a statement.

More information can be found at

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