Community Disaster / Trauma Response


The Department of Behavioral Wellness is an active participant in community disaster and trauma response.  The department operates a countywide Behavioral Wellness Response Team comprised of departmental staff responders.  The Behavioral Wellness Response Team is a well-rounded group of responders with a variety of expertise and cultural and language capabilities. This team is trained in response to various crisis intervention modalities including, but not limited to, Psychological First Aid (PFA) and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and provides response for local natural and man-made disasters, mass violence, school traumatic events including student deaths as well as other critical incidents within the community.  Behavioral Wellness also participates in community-wide disaster preparation activities, collaborates with the Department of Public Health, Red Cross, Hospice, Santa Barbara Response Network and other community partners and provides trainings to county employees and community partners.

Senior Holiday Phone Bridge Program

The Behavioral Wellness Community Wellness Team is helping to keep seniors connected through the holidays.  Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors have been among the most vulnerable of groups.  Not only for physical health reasons, but also for their mental health.  Many studies report that loneliness among older adults has increased significantly over the past year.

In addition to the current stressors of living life in a pandemic, and the social isolation being experienced by older adults, many older adults may also be living in a senior living environment which is not permitting family visitors even if socially distanced. Loneliness and social isolation for older adults have a deep emotional impact, sometimes leading to depression and anxiety and can even have a significant impact on their physical health.

The Behavioral Wellness Community Wellness Team has developed the Senior Bridge Program to provide support to older adults through the holiday season, and beyond.  Those interested may call the Community Wellness Team at 805-364-2750 and sign up for just one call or for regular friendly phone calls from volunteers from Hospice of Santa Barbara.  We truly are all in this together, and with that knowledge, we will get through this together.  Let's make sure nobody has to do this alone.  If you know of an older adult who may benefit from connection by phone, please share this information.

Holiday Phone Bridge Program Letter to Seniors English  Spanish

Holiday Phone Bridge Program Flyer (English/Spanish)  

Post-Election Stress

There are plenty of reasons that make feeling anxious pretty normal right now. Living life in a pandemic has changed our lives and routines in every way imaginable, impacted finances, school and more.  This is truly a year unlike no other.  However, the addition of stress surrounding the presidential election and state of our nation can now be added to the list. 

Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association conducted a "Stress in America" survey in which they found more than half (about 56%) of the people who responded, identifying the 2020 election as a significant stressor.  In the end of June, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the highest rising levels of anxiety were among young adults, as well as people of color of all ages.  The prevalence of anxiety symptoms among all populations was 3 times higher than the corresponding period in 2019.

The Department of Behavioral Wellness, who serves as the lead for the Community Wellness Team will be sponsoring opportunities to connect and combat the stress so many will be experiencing during and post the upcoming election.

Let's Talk:  The Community can connect with a Behavioral Wellness Community Wellness Team member before and after the election for brief one-on-one confidential conversations.  The Community Wellness Team can be reached by calling 805-364-2750.

Post-Election: The Behavioral Wellness Community Wellness Team will host virtual (Bilingual Spanish and English) listening and support spaces after the election. These will occur November 3 – 6 from 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM.  Community interested in joining can join by zoom. 

Resource Support for Organizations:  Guidance on facilitating dialogues and other resource support is available for community organizations.  If you don't see what you are looking for on this page, please call the Community Wellness Team at 805-364-2750.

Mental Health Tips:  Here are some tips you can start doing right away to improve your mental health around the election:

  • Stay informed with reliable information and take a break from information when you need to. 
  • Stay socially connected. Connect with supportive family and friends. Look for productive opportunities to communicate with people even when there may be disagreement.  Click here for more.  
  • Set boundaries.  Click here for more  
  • Practice mindfulness strategies for self-care.  Click here for more
  • Break the habit of ruminating on bad outcomes.  Uncertainty is everywhere right now and can be a large contributor to stress.
  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Engage in meaningful activities.
  • Stay physically active.


American Psychological Association discusses coping skills surrounding election stress

The Science Behind Worry – And How to Calm Your Nerves.  Read in NPR  

When the Headlines Won't Stop, Here's How to Cope with Anxiety.  Read in NPR 

Headspace Election Anxiety 


Behavioral Wellness Support during a Community Crisis

The Department of Behavioral Wellness provides the following areas of support during a community crisis:


General Disaster Response Resources

Children's Disaster Response Resources

Ready: Get Your Kids on Your Team

Children and Young Adults Disaster and Trauma Response

School Trauma Response Resources


Immigration Trauma Response Resources

Support for Department and County Staff

Whether working in the field of public service in general, or with the most severely impacted and most complex behavioral health cases, is challenging and can "take a toll."  Many who have worked in this helping field for a long time have developed the ability to work with stressful situations on a daily basis without any personal impact. However, dealing with certain traumatic or stressful situations can have a lasting negative impact.  In addition, other situations may also occur in the workplace such as the sudden loss, serious illness or death of a co-worker, death of a client or other traumatic workplace event.  The Department of Behavioral Wellness knows how critical this support is and provides for immediate access to support (provided directly or coordinating with external resources).

Department or County employees or supervisors may request support or linkage to support, at any time, by contacting Suzanne Grimmesey at (805) 886-5403 or

Critical Incident Stress Debriefings

Working as a professional first responder long enough, one has or will likely be faced with some kind of tragedy.  Traumatic events are not natural things to witness for most people, but can become a common occurrence for professional first responders.   Although traumatic events will always be a part of the daily life of first responders, some traumas may uniquely impact a team and individuals on a time uniquely. Critical incident stress management is a short-term, psychological first-aid intervention strategy that can help mitigate long-term mental health issues for first responders. Critical incident stress management is a helpful tool not only for first responders but for workplace teams who have been impacted by a traumatic event.

Critical incident stress debriefings encourages individuals and teams to work through the impact of the cognitive, emotional, and psychological symptoms that manifest as a direct result of exposure to traumatic stress, especially repetitive or cumulative traumatic stress. This approach aims to return those involved to a pre-event "normal" status quicker through facilitation of a normal recovery process and allows teams to regain their normal functioning and effectiveness as a team.

To request a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing for your team, please call Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT at (805) 886-5403.

Behavioral Wellness Response Team

Department employees interested in joining the Behavioral Wellness Response Team may contact Suzanne Grimmesey at (805) 886-5403 or

For information on Disaster/Trauma Response or to request training or immediate support, please contact:

Suzanne Grimmesey, MFT

Chief Quality Care and Strategy Officer, PIO