TEMECULA, Calif. — The city of Temecula will invest $1.5 million this year in the mental health of its at-risk citizens and workers, an effort publicly acknowledged this week by Temecula Valley Hospital.
The work began late last year when the Temecula City Council agreed to direct $1 million of its $14 million America’s Rescue Act allocation to hospitals for community behavioral health services.
The city also awarded $250,000 each to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department to strengthen mental health services for first responders serving Temecula.
In a statement released Wednesday, Temecula Valley Hospital CEO Darlene Wetton explained why and how the $1 million grant will be used.
“There is an acute shortage of available services that support the behavioral health needs of at-risk populations in the community,” she said. Sadly, the University of Riverside Health System – Public Health reports that Riverside County has a suicide rate of 11.8 per 100,000 people, which compares favorably with the 2018-2018 suicide rate. Compares suicide rate in California to 10.5 per 100,000 in 2020. Funding provided will be used to raise awareness through community education and most importantly, introduce behavioral health programs critical to serving first responders , initiative – servicemen and our honored veterans.”
According to Temecula City Manager Aaron Adams, the grant will help the hospital to move toward residents who live or work in Temecula.
In a released statement Wednesday, Adams said the effort would advance “the health, safety and general welfare of the community.”
In an email to Patch, the city manager further explained that through the program, Temecula residents/staff will be eligible for up to $5,000 to $25,000 (per patient) in emergency department behavioral care stabilization coverage, which may not be covered by insurance range, and the cost of facilitating inpatient behavioral health services.
The city grant will also help fund behavioral/mental health education intervention programs, according to the city manager.
The Temecula Valley Hospital program is led by the hospital’s Kelly Felton, a licensed clinical social worker. According to the hospital, she was trained in crisis management and stabilization, conflict resolution, investigation, program development, and facilitated prevention and intervention community groups and participated in community outreach programs.
John Crater, superintendent of the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department Temecula Division, told the Temecula City Council during the Nov. 15 Temecula City Council meeting , mental health is critical for crew members and needs financial support.
“We had to be one step ahead,” Crater said. “Our people are taking their own lives and it’s not necessary.”
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has similar concerns.
A 2021 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. In addition, EMS providers were 1.39 times more likely than the general public to die by suicide.
“First responders may be at higher risk of suicide due to work environment, culture, and occupational and personal stress. This stress can be acute (related to a specific event) or chronic (accumulated over time today’s stress),” according to the report.
First responders see some of the worst when they answer calls, and the city’s funding will help pay for additional peer support programs, classes, therapy, comfort dogs and other life-saving treatments, Crater said.
According to city documents, the remainder of Temecula’s $14 million in ARPA funding goes toward business support, nonprofit support, homeless services, housing assistance and higher education/workforce development.