Fundraiser for family services agency draws attention to youth mental health crisis

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Santa Barbara, CA (May 31, 2022) — On May 12, 150 guests packed the Santa Barbara Woman’s Club in Rockwood to get a taste of youth mental health and raise money for the Santa Barbara County Family Services Agency (FSA), which includes the Santa Maria Valley Youth & Family Center, and Guadalupe’s Little House near the park. 80 more people took part in a free online simulcast. The event raised over $147,000 to support programs for underserved children, families and seniors.

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

“Through bi-weekly meetings with an FSA therapist, Angelica worked through her experiences, developing coping skills and slowly learning to trust others,” Brabo explained. “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 says. “This event allowed community members to become more informed and united in supporting the mental health of our youth.

Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Month, the event featured keynote speaker and triple board certified psychiatrist, Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson. A Harvard graduate and gifted 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 were disproportionately affected by the pandemic… they live, work, play and learn. This is what we mean by serving the whole person.

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

This event was sponsored by several 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. To donate, visit

Santa Barbara County Family Services Agency (FSA) is a nonprofit social service agency serving the people of Santa Barbara County since 1899. Operating as Santa Maria Valley Youth and Family Center (SMVYFC) in Santa Maria and Little House by the Park (LHP) in Guadalupe, FSA helps the community’s most vulnerable children, families, and seniors meet their basic needs while simultaneously addressing mental health needs. Through this holistic approach, FSA improves the strength and well-being of our community. All services are provided free of charge or on a sliding scale of fees/donations and no one is denied assistance due to inability to pay. Visit or call (805) 965-1001 for more information.


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