A trauma recovery center funded by the California Victim Compensation Board will open three new satellite offices in Central California to support crime victims in rural or underserved communities.
Two of the three new offices are coming to Bakersfield.
According to a news release Thursday from the state compensation board, Amanecer Community Counseling Service of Los Angeles County will establish one satellite office at Mercy Hospital Downtown, and a second at Mercy Hospital Southwest, both in Bakersfield, thanks to a $2.5 million grant approved Thursday by CalVCB.
The third office will be at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton.
All three hospitals are affiliated with CommonSpirit Health, formerly known as Dignity Health.
“San Joaquin and Kern counties are mostly rural with significant non-English speaking populations, including farmworkers and new immigrants, and high rates of poverty, homelessness and crime,” CalVCB said in the news release.
Rural populations in these counties are struggling with a lagging economic recovery and a chronic shortage of mental health and trauma-focused services, especially in languages other than English, it said.
Amanecer has a long-standing partnership with CommonSpirit Health, the release said. Through the existing hospital system, the proposed satellite offices will offer on-site and virtual mental health and support services. Amanecer expects to serve 1,800 clients and conduct 35 training courses to local organizations and law enforcement over the 30-month course of the grant, the release continued.
When asked why Bakersfield gets two satellite offices, CalVCB Information Officer Heather Jones said Amanecer Community Counseling Service’s grant application cited the high need in Kern County as well as Amanecer’s ability, through its partnership with CommonSpirit, to provide offices at the two hospitals, one downtown and the other in the city’s southwest.
In its application, Amanecer cited Bakersfield’s soaring crime rate.
It noted that in 2021, violent crimes such as criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault increased by 7 percent in Bakersfield, compared to the previous year.
The grant application also cited Bakersfield’s poverty.
“The poverty rate in Bakersfield is 19.2 percent; in fact, one out of every 5.2 residents lives in poverty — nearly 65,000 people,” Amanecer said in his grant application. “The poverty rate in Bakersfield is 39.84 percent higher than the California average.”
The grant award to Amanecer is the second of two regional trauma recovery center pilot program grants funded by the 2022-23 state budget, the release said. The first, approved by CalVCB in November, was aimed at Northern California locations and provided $2.5 million to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office to open satellite offices in Sacramento and Santa Rosa.
Since 2014, CalVCB has awarded grants to trauma recovery centers throughout California to provide trauma-informed mental health treatment and case management to underserved crime victims who may not be eligible for victim compensation or may be fearful of reporting a crime to law enforcement. CalVCB currently funds 18 centers.
The Californian reached out to Mercy for comment Thursday. It received the following, attributable to Mercy Hospitals Bakersfield:
“Mercy Hospital has a long history of supporting our community in the hospital and beyond our walls. The opportunity to bring additional mental health and trauma-informed care to our community is something that meets our mission of serving those with the most critical need. Currently , we are in discussions with Amanecer Community Counseling Service and further vetting this opportunity to better determine the extent of Mercy Hospitals Bakersfield may participate in this program.”
Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.