Selma, Adventist Health expand mental health care

Partnership between Adventist Health Selma, Selma Healthcare District funds project to address patients’ immediate mental health needs at Adventist Health’s emergency department and other clinics

Adventist Health Road sign located near the main driveway entrance on Rose Ave. (Kenny Goodman)
Adventist Health Road sign located near the main driveway entrance on Rose Ave. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published October 29, 2023  • 
12:00 pm

SELMA – The local health care district is beginning a one-year pilot project to better address the community’s mental health needs with faster response times and coordinated care between offices. 

Selma Healthcare District announced a partnership with Adventist Health Selma last month for a project that will hire a licensed clinical social worker to care for mental health patients across Selma clinics and the Adventist Health emergency department. The project stems from a grant program put together by Selma Healthcare District; they will put $100,000 toward the program, with Adventist Health contributing $122,000. 

Selma Healthcare District Board of Directors Chair Daniel Serimian said the district created this large grant program as a way to ensure property tax money gathered by the district goes back into the community. He said they were looking for a project that would be health related and they were “trying to hit areas that are important to everyone.” 

“By partnering with us, the Selma Healthcare District will help thousands of patients get the right care at the right time and place to meet their needs more quickly and thoroughly,” Dr. Raul Ayala, Adventist health ambulatory medical officer, said in a joint press release put out by the organizations. 

The project funds will go toward a two-person clinical team to “assess and treat patients and direct them to local resources more quickly,” the press release said. 

The clinical social worker will be able to direct patients to the appropriate follow-up care that meets their needs on an ongoing basis, with the goal of promoting long-term healing. At the Adventist Health clinic in Selma, a medical assistant will support referred mental health patients with any needs they have.

“Faster emergency department assessments will allow patients to get the care they need more quickly rather than waiting for a transfer, which can take more than a day,” the press release said. 

According to the press release, more than 500 adults and children seek out mental health services at Selma’s Adventist Health hospital and clinics. This is in line with a national trend that shows a growing mental health crisis and a shortage of mental health professionals across many areas in the country. 

Data from 2021 gathered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness shows that one in five adults in the United States experience mental illness each year, with one in 20 adults experiencing serious mental illness. 

The California Health Care Foundation defines adults experiencing a mental illness as those who have had, at any time in the past year, “a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder, regardless of the level of impairment in carrying out major life activities.” Serious mental illness is identified when adults have a previously mentioned diagnosable disorder that results in functional impairment that interferes with or limits major life activities. 

2019 data from the California Health Care Foundation reported that 3.9% of adults in the state had a serious mental illness, while 14.4% had any mental illness.

The press release said the Selma Healthcare District board voted unanimously in June to award the grant, which required the partnering agency to match the $100,000 in funds, to Adventist Health Selma. 

“This is great,” Board Member Rosemary Alanis said at the meeting. “That’s what we’re here for, to move forward and partner for the health of the community.”

Serimian said Adventist Health went “above and beyond” in their proposal, as they are providing more funding than was required, and they “are very elated because it’s (mental health) such a big problem everywhere.”

“Addressing mental health issues goes beyond one person or one organization,” Ayala said in the press release. “It takes a community.”

Selma Healthcare District aims to continue its large grant program in 2024 and will choose another health care field that they — and the community — feel needs additional attention and support, Serimian said.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter