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The mission of Contra Costa Behavioral Health, in partnership with consumers, families, staff, and community-based agencies, is to provide welcoming, integrated services for mental health, substance abuse, homelessness and other needs that promotes wellness, recovery, and resiliency while respecting the complexity and diversity of the people we serve. 
Contra Costa Behavioral Health envisions a system of care that supports independence, hope, and healthy lives by making accessible behavioral health services that are responsive, integrated, compassionate, and respectful. 



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"It's not the answer that enlightens, but the question."
-Eugene Ionesco

Cynthia Belon
  Cynthia Belon,  LCSW 
   Director of Behavioral  
       Health Services
Giving Thanks and Looking Ahead 

Looking back at 2013, I am struck by the dedication and effort of staff in Behavioral Health Services. It is exciting to see so many skilled people work together toward a common goal -- to form an integrated system of care that makes sense to the consumers and to us.


Thank you all for your commitment to providing better care to the community.


Change requires hard work, and that will continue in 2014. But the results are worth it, as recent events show.


We were proud to stand with colleagues from across Health Services in November, when we opened an expansion of the health center in Concord that integrates behavioral and physical health care into a single system under one roof. Consumers now receive care that is based on their need, rather than the services offered within the silo of a particular specialty.


Also in Concord, we are now offering ambulatory care services at our adult mental health clinic, and, in addition, are adding psychiatric services to our Homeless Services respite program, health care clinic and shelter.


These collaborations represent a new way of doing things, a new model for delivering health care in Contra Costa County, and all of us in Behavioral Health helped make it happen. All those months spent meeting and planning our reorganization were intended to produce these kinds of outcomes.


In 2014, we will explore more ways of integrating our services and enhancing the care we offer.


As of January 1st, as part of health care reform, we will be expanding our partnership with Contra Costa Health Plan to serve community residents with mild to moderate mental health needs through our Mental Health Provider Network. 


In March, we will hold a forum intended to cull ideas and experience from our line staff and the numerous community-based organizations that support the mission of Behavioral Health Services, as we continue to refine our methods of integrating systems of care to better serve consumers.


We cannot build a truly responsive system of care without the contributions of our partners, especially our consumers and their families. I have no doubt that their ideas will help us find new ways to improve, and I look forward to including them more in our process.


We will also continue to look within for solutions. In February, Rona Consulting Group will help guide us through an evaluation of how consumers access our services across Behavioral Health. This is the same firm that has helped Contra Costa Regional Medical Center apply Lean management principles and develop efficient problem-solving techniques at the ground level.


Do all of our access points in Behavioral Health lead consumers to all of the services they need? We intend to examine access, with an eye toward improving the experience of both staff and our clients, to ensure that every door is the right door for receiving all of the services we offer.


As the end of 2013 draws near, I encourage you to look back and take pride in what we have collectively achieved on the job. With your continued commitment, I believe that 2014 will be even better.


Wishing you a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!



CB Signiture 2
Cynthia Belon, LCSW 
Behavioral Health Director
Contra Costa County Behavioral Health




California External Quality Review Organization (CAEQRO)

Contra Costa Mental Health Site Review

February 13, 2014


A review team from the California External Quality Review Organization (CAEQRO) will tour our mental health program in February to assess our compliance with specialty mental health services provided to consumers in the Medi-Cal managed mental health care program. 


The team will meet with mental health administrative staff, program managers, line staff, contract providers and consumers on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, to assess the quality of care provided by the Contra Costa Mental Health Plan. Unlike previous years, the upcoming year's review will be shorter, consisting of a one-day site review visit.


The review is part of a series of data analyses and systems reviews of county mental health plans conducted by CAEQRO for the state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), to meet requirements set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) for external quality review of Medicaid programs. The review will focus on the key components mandated by CMS - access, outcomes, timeliness and quality.


The team will also review two Performance Improvement Projects: Coordination of services for high-utilization clients, and improving wait times for beneficiaries to the access line. The review provides valuable feedback about what is working well in the system of care, and identifying and making recommendations on areas for improvement.  


This year's review will particularly focus on three areas: Readiness for the upcoming EPSDT Performance Outcomes System, discussions on Katie A implementation, and a discussion of if and how timely access for non-English speakers is addressed and monitored.


Obtaining feedback from those who receive our services is an important component of CAEQRO's process, which includes a Consumer/Family Member Focus Group. Details including a complete list of criteria for the focus group are now being developed for release in mid-December.


A site review agenda will also be released to mental health staff as soon as it is finalized by CAEQRO. Staff may be asked to participate in focus groups during the review.  More information will follow in the upcoming months regarding the CAEQRO site visit and documentation review process.


The participation of the following groups will be required at different points during the review process:

  • Executive leadership, including the MHP director
  • Information systems
  • Finance, billing, and operations
  • Quality improvement, data analysis, and research
  • Individuals involved in MHP Performance Improvement Projects (PIP)
  • Key line staff and supervisors within direct clinical and psychiatric and medical services
  • Patient rights advocates
  • Consumers and family members employed by the MHP
  • Organizational contract providers
  • Other key organizations or other stakeholders involved in collaboration with the MHP

To view last year's APS Healthcare Final Report for Contra Costa County, click here or visit


Click here to learn more about CAEQRO.

For more information contact:




Health Services celebrated the expansion of the Concord Health Center with an open house on November 18. The new Concord Health Center Building 2, also known as CHC2, as an example of health care reform at the local level. CHC2 represents an innovative effort that integrates behavioral and physical health care into one location. 

Kelley Taylor, Ambulatory Care Clinic Services Manager, and Matthew Luu,

Mental Health Program Manager

The facility is the first of our health centers to integrate the two services. This change addresses the longstanding issue of how to get behavioral health services to people who need them but don't know how to seek them or whose needs aren't severe enough for emergency psychiatric services, said Dr. Chris Farnitano, CCHS Ambulatory Care Medical Director.


"Having integrated services helps to diagnose and treat people for both mental and physical conditions. We are creating a medical home where all their health needs can be met," Dr. Farnitano said.


A special guest speaker at the event was CHC2 patient Tim Tarman, who is able to see his primary care physician, meet with his therapist and attend group support meetings all in the same place. "I have gotten the care I need and even more critical are the people here- this is a wonderful place. My strokes were life-changing but so is the care I have received here," Tarman said.


CHC2 has nine exam rooms and is expected to serve more than 6,000 people annually. Thanks to all the CHC2 staff that made this event possible.


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Winter is quickly approaching, and while the dropping temperature is a welcome change for some, it is viewed with trepidation by many homeless individuals living outside or in vehicles.


In preparation for the weather, the Homeless Program's Adult Continuum of Services is providing 20 additional shelter beds this winter season. The expansion began Nov. 1 and will continue through March 30, 2014 at our Concord and Richmond emergency shelters. All residents receive food, clothing, case management, benefits and housing placement services.





Any homeless residents, or partners working with our consumers, may call the Homeless Hotline at 1-800-799-6599 for information about accessing services.


Those who remain outside this winter can take these steps to help protect themselves against severe cold and freezing temperatures:

  • Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • Do NOT bring heating devices into your tent or lean-to if they are intended for outdoor use. That includes barbecues and other cooking equipment or fuel-burning devices. These items can produce deadly carbon monoxide.
Referrals for winter supplies such as coats, gloves, cloths, sleeping bags, or other homeless services can be obtained contacting Anka Behavioral Health Homeless Outreach Team (Project HOPE) at 925-435-3650, or by dialing 211, the national information and referral line for local health and social services.

For more information visit:   


Caroline Sison and Razia Iqbal

The Reducing Health Disparities work group  announced its new co-chairs: Caroline Sison, MPH from the Behavioral Health Division, and Razia Iqbal, PsyD from Jewish Family and Children's Services.

The mission of the work group is to reduce disparities in behavioral health and health care delivery by creating a workforce that is culturally competent, promotes wellness, recovery, and resiliency, and engages in the building and fostering of relationships with individuals and communities of Contra Costa County.

The group provides input on the planning of trainings and programs, such as the County's CBO Internship Program, participates in local and statewide events, such as the Cultural Competency Summit and Bay Area regional meetings, and examines data related to language utilization and the cultural awareness of staff.

We are always looking for motivated individuals dedicated to reducing disparities in the County to join. If you're interested in becoming a part of the Reducing Health Disparities work group, please contact Caroline Sison at

For more information contact:


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TRAINING CALENDARS                       

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November 20: National Transgender Day of Remembrance

Advocates for the National Transgender Day of Remembrance  with Supervisors John Gioia and Karen Mitchoff


The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors proclaimed Nov. 20 as National Transgender Day of Remembrance. The day serves to remember the lives of transgender people lost to hate crime, and is held in November to honor Rita Hester, who was murdered on Nov. 28, 1998.


Along with members of the LGBT Pride Committee, two transgender community members bravely shared their personal stories and struggles living in Contra Costa County with the board. The proclamation helps raise awareness about the threat of violence faced by gender-variant people, and the persistence of prejudice felt by the transgender community.


Read the testimony of two transgender community members here and here, and an opinion article from the Contra Costa Times regarding Transgender Day of Remembrance and the local suicide of a transgender person here


For the latest news and resources for the county's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities, visit the Rainbow Community Center.

The Contra Costa County Health Services Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Committee is collaborating with the Transgender Law Center to develop transgender health training at the Richmond Health Center clinic in 2014. The committee is also working on elements of new Visitor Welcoming Policy for Contra Costa Regional Medical Center, in partnership with Teresa Pasquini and the Mental Health Partnership. Learn more about the work here.


For more information contact:






Our Homeless Program, along with numerous community-based organizations, public agencies and scores of volunteers, gathered Oct. 9 at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds in Antioch to deliver a thorough offering of services to our local homeless population through Project Homeless Connect.


The one-day event helped nearly 600 people, providing access to food, medical and dental services, veterinary service for pets, mental health and substance abuse services, housing programs and legal help. Health Services also accepted about 50 applications for the county's Low-Income Health Program (LIHP). After Jan. 1, many of those enrolled in LIHP will automatically be covered by the Medi-Cal expansion, a key component of health care reform.


In addition to the many community groups that supported Project Homeless Connect, state Assembly members Jim Frazier, Joan Buchanan, and Nancy Skinner, along with county Supervisor Federal Glover, played key roles in planning and supporting the event.


For more information contact:


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To view and print this flyer click here.


For more information contact Razia Iqbal: 925-927-2000 or


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What are you concerned about? What are your hopes for the future? Do you have an idea that could improve our community health system together?

Those were some of the questions that people from all parts of Contra Costa County's public health system came together to answer in October, during a "Living Room Conversation" intended to supply a simple and sociable backdrop for real conversation about improvement.

The Living Room Conversations (LRC) process is designed to help a small group of people come together and get to know one another in a more meaningful way than usual, by talking about their personal senses of purpose and the issues they care about the most. The goal is to see what we can learn from one another, rather than debate or argue.


Joan Blades, co-founder of and, helped create the Living Room Conversations program to help people with different political views have rewarding conversations. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMSHA) recently embraced the concept as a way to engage mental health consumers.

In Contra Costa County, we use the process to facilitate conversation about collaboration and change, and support those seeking to create new healthcare partnerships across all divisions of Contra Costa Health Services. Our LRC planning group, which includes consumers, family members, clients and Health Services staff, adapted the model to meet our needs with assistance from Blades.


Many consumers and clients who participated demonstrated their enthusiasm during our most recent event, on Oct. 18, which was attended by Health Services Director William Walker, Behavioral Health Director Cynthia Belon and Regional Medical Center Director Anna Roth.

The comments and input from participants was documented through surveys and notes taken during the interaction, including these:

  • "The information was very valuable which gives birth to more events like this to come."
  • "I wish and want to work for change to make a more inclusive and accessible system."
  • "Because I believe we have inherited a broken system and I would like to see it fixed."
  • "Knowing people can get together and have a constructive conversation."

Additional feedback included a call to empower consumers to speak up. Another focused on promoting better knowledge on mental health, including in the area of medications. There was also encouragement to foster greater competency with providers.  Another participant declared, "We can't put everyone in the same category."


For more information 


Flu season is well underway. Many of your co-workers have already received their vaccinations against influenza. Isn't it time for you to protect yourself?

Each year, influenza accounts for an estimated 150,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths in the United States. This season's flu vaccine provides protection from up to four flu strains, including H1N1 (swine flu). Contra Costa County employees can get vaccinated from their regular health care provider or at Vista Oaks Occupational Medicine, 10 Douglas Drive, 110 in Martinez, on Fridays from 8:00 AM to 11:30 AM. No appointment is necessary, but employees should request time off from their supervisor.

There is no charge for employees with the Contra Costa Health Plan. For employees with other health insurance, flu shots are $25. CCHS health care workers who are required to be vaccinated can still get their shot for free.

We have a long way to go before flu season ends, so get vaccinated soon.

For more information visit:


Do you have a coworker who deserves recognition for helping Behavioral Health Services become a more integrated system? Please consider nominating them for the Vision Award, a new staff-recognition program.

The Vision Award highlights staff who exemplify the Behavioral Health Mission Statement:


Contra Costa Behavioral Health envisions a system of care that supports independence, hope, and healthy lives by making accessible behavioral health services that are responsive, integrated, compassionate, and respectful.  


This award is for staff within Behavioral Health who have gone above and beyond to provide or coordinate services to clients that meet their Behavioral Health needs. "Here in Behavioral Health we want to encourage and support staff who take initiative to move our systems forward and help us achieve our vision," Director Cynthia Belon said. "We want to recognize those individuals whose activities, ideas, processes, or services provided have helped us achieve big or small strides towards a more integrated system of care."



Any staff member can nominate or be nominated for a Vision Award. Click here to learn the process to nominate and other general guidelines of the Award program. 


The first recipients of the Vision Award are:

Central Children's Behavioral Health Clerical Support Staff: Ann Marie Brown, Priscilla Vargas, Juliana Mijares, Elvira Sarlis, Brenda Breer, Evenlyn Svetcos, Mark Barbero, Julie Custer-Ortega.

For consistently working hard to provide the best services to the public with limited resources and for their contributions to the new Katie A program. (Nominator: David Chen

Central Adult Behavioral Health Clerical Support Staff: Roxanne Osegueda, Maureen Courter, Karen Masonek, Annalise Noble, Renee Armas-Johnson, Christine Conner, Gary Stater, Nadine Hurd.

For consistently working hard to provide the best services to the public with limited resources and for their contributions to the new Integrated Wellness Clinic. (Nominator: David Chen)

Dr. Manuel Fernandez

For his dedication, investment, and effectiveness during therapy sessions. Numerous clients and their families have provided feedback acknowledging him. In addition for his open door policy approach and the added time he takes to share his knowledge and provide support to his colleagues/co-workers. (Nominator: Paula Cardenas)

Jan Cobaleda-Kegler

For developing and supporting the use of evidence based practices (dialectical behavioral therapy, trauma focused cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy for depression) and facilitating the training of staff across the County in Children's and Young Adult Services.  Also for facilitating trainings with trainers from UCSF and spearheading an ongoing learning environment for all staff's participation. (Nominator: Betsy Hanna)

Cyndie Cook

For educating clients about the effects of substance use on mental health.  This education and getting them into substance abuse recovery, has been a key component of her intervention services.  She goes out of her way to visit her clients wherever they are (hospital, programs, shelters,  at home and even on the street) to provide these services. (Nominator: Betsy Orme)  


For more information


By Stephanie Batchelor

(From our Office of Consumer Empowerment newsletter.) 


Stephanie Batchelor 
I come from a background of being homeless. When I was 18, I decided to leave home. I was out on the streets, in motels, and couch surfing. I was heavy into my addiction of methamphetamine, and there was nothing anyone could tell me that would change that.

I thought I knew everything. This was the first time I also had an episode of mental illness, although I didn't realize I had a problem.I was in a motel room all alone and coming down off drugs. It was close to Christmas, and I was severely depressed. I decided I would be better off not here anymore, so I took a handful of pills. I ended up in a mental hospital for three days on a suicide watch, which I was able to talk my way out of and be released before I was evaluated.

Later on down the road, I ended up in two abusive, drug-related relationships, where I found myself homeless again. By this time I was almost 30 years old. I slept in my car and then eventually in a camp in the Martinez Marina. I would hear screaming at night, and I heard and saw people get beat up in their sleep. I also heard that someone in San Francisco got set on fire because he was homeless.


I couldn't get a job because no one would hire me without an address. I eventually got into a shelter. After one and a half years of being in a shelter and couch surfing, I decided to quit using drugs. I was diagnosed Bipolar I and I started taking medication. I was asked to join the Consumer Advisory Board where I started making a difference.


Most people out there are just like me, and deserve a chance to make a difference themselves. Instead people look down on them and make them feel bad about themselves, and that keeps them from taking that step to make a difference. "You're dirty," "You're a drunk," "No, I can't hire you," and "If I give you money, you'll just spend it on alcohol or drugs." These are a few stigmatizing and hurtful things that are said, and there are many more.


Homeless people just need someone to believe in them.If you see someone on the side of the road or in a park, talk with them or get to know them, or maybe buy them a coffee or a burger. You never know what a difference you could make in their lives. Stop stigmatizing and start caring.


To read more in the Office for Consumer Empowerment newsletter click here.


For more information contact: 


 Healing Cuisine: Holiday Pomegranate Sauce 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium Spanish onion, diced fine
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 cup port wine
6 cups chicken stock2 2/3 cups pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (instructions below)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
˝ cup pomegranate seeds 

I discovered this Holiday Pomegranate Sauce about five years ago before hosting a very large Thanksgiving party. I was looking for a not-so-traditional Thanksgiving "all purpose sauce" with enough gusto to work on just about everything while easily stealing the limelight from the oftentimes stodgy, but ubiquitous cranberry sauce.
This sauce was the perfect replacement and now it has become tradition. The first thing you will need to do is make the pomegranate molasses (see below). This will later be added to the overall sauce when cooking. Using fresh organic pomegranates will yield the best results but using bottled juice will also work well.
Be sure to allot a good amount of time (several hours) for this recipe as it requires a number of separate reductions, I recommend making it the day before and warming it up prior to serving.

To make the pomegranate molasses


If you choose to use whole Pomegranates, peel the leathery skin off of the fruit and separate the seeds from the bitter membrane. Discard the membrane and place the seeds in a food processor. Process for only a few seconds, then strain the juice using a sieve or cheesecloth.  Reserve 2/3 cup of the juice to reduce to make the molasses.  Set the remaining 2 cups of juice aside to be added to the overall sauce later.  Boil the 2/3 cup of juice down in a heavy gauge saucepan until it is the consistency of maple syrup. Continue cooking the syrup until it reaches molasses consistency, leaving roughly 2 tablespoons.  Stir to prevent burning. 



Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat to melt. Use the butter to sauté the onion and garlic until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the peppercorns and cook another 3 minutes. Add the port and continue to cook until most of the port has reduced and evaporated. Add the stock, the pomegranate juice, the pomegranate molasses, and the brown sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high, then reduce slowly to the consistency of a sauce. As the sugars begin to caramelize, the sauce will turn a brownish red in color, and will thicken.   Be sure to stir frequently to prevent burning. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, add the chives, and stir in the pomegranate seeds. This is an absolutely superb accompaniment for turkey.
(A note to those that do not consume alcohol: All the alcohol is long boiled off in this recipe leaving only sugar and a lot of flavor in the reduced port wine. Also, no need to remove the whole peppercorns once completed. They add a vibrant flash of spicy goodness to the sauce and are tender when eaten.)
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