Family services agency fundraiser draws attention to youth mental health crisis | Good for Santa Barbara

Posted May 31, 2022
| 1:40 p.m.

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FSA CEO Lisa Brabo, left; Dr. Sarah Vinson, event speaker; FSA Board Member Jane Santos Sweeney; and Kris Bergstrom, master of ceremonies for the event. (Courtesy picture)

Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month, an event hosted by the Santa Barbara County Family Service Agency (FSA) provided insight into youth mental health and raised more than $147,000 for the FSA, which includes the Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center and Guadalupe’s Little House at the Edge of the Park.

Funds from the May 12 benefit will support programs for underserved children, families and seniors. There were 150 guests attending in person at the Santa Barbara Woman’s Club in Rockwood, and another 80 took part in a free online simulcast on May 12.

After an outdoor reception with music and appetizers, FSA CEO Lisa Brabo told attendees the story of foster student Angelica who struggled with depression and low self-esteem. self.

“Through bi-weekly meetings with an FSA therapist, Angelica worked through her experiences, developing coping skills and slowly learning to trust others,” Brabo said. “She recently reunited with her mother and both are invested in repairing their relationship.”

In addition to basic needs support and parent education, the FSA provides mental health counseling for people aged five and over. Since the pandemic, the FSA has seen an increase in the number of people referred to therapy, as well as the severity of cases.

More and more children and adolescents are experiencing emotional well-being issues, including documented increases in anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.

“We see the impacts of this youth mental health crisis on children, parents, teachers and the whole community,” Brabo said. “This event allowed community members to become more informed and united in supporting the mental health of our youth.

The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson, triple board certified psychiatrist. A Harvard graduate and educator, Dr. Vinson oversees educational experiments at Emory and Morehouse School of Medicine. She is passionate about sharing the skills and knowledge gained through her clinical and teaching experiences.

Dr. Vinson explained how social determinants such as food and housing insecurity, lack of resources and social acceptance impact mental health.

“Groups that were already marginalized have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic…Helping a child feel good depends on where they live, work, play and learn. This is what we mean by serving the whole person,” she said.

FSA programs ensure access to food, shelter and other basic needs, serving families holistically through case management, parent education, advocacy and a range of mental health programs. Thanks to community support, no one is denied access to services due to inability to pay.

The event was sponsored by FSA supporters and mental health advocates including Tania and John Burke, Marni and Michael Cooney, Santa Barbara Foundation, Ginny and Tim Bliss, Zora and Les Charles, Montecito Bank & Trust , Union Bank, Jill and John Bishop, Dignity Health, Tisha Ford, Jane and Fred Sweeney, Carole MacElhenny, Liz and Andrew Butcher, and CenCal Health.

For a full list of sponsors, visit The FSA is still accepting donations as part of its spring appeal; donate, visit

FSA is a nonprofit social service agency, serving Santa Barbara County since 1899. Operating as Santa Maria Valley Youth and Family Center in Santa Maria, and Little House By The Park in Guadalupe, FSA helps children , the most vulnerable families and seniors in the community to meet basic needs while simultaneously meeting mental health needs.

To learn more, visit or call 805-965-1001.

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