New Mental Health Center Opens For Children In Banning

Kamari Esquerra

Mental health services are now more accessible to residents in Banning.

“Some families cannot find mental health care because of the lack of providers in their area,” said Mary Hamlin, Banning City Council Member. “Some families may have to travel long distances or be placed on long waiting lists to receive care, but guess what? Not in the Banning pass area. We welcome Oasis Children’s Mental Health Service to our city.” 

On Wednesday, Riverside University Health System Behavioral Health and Oasis Community Services hosted the grand opening of the Banning Children’s Center, providing much-needed mental health services to children up to 21 and their families at no cost.

Since the start of the pandemic, health professionals say mental health services are needed now more than ever, especially in underserved communities.

“Banning needs services,” said Colleen Lyon, Clinical Supervisor. “It’s been underserved.”

The past two years have been especially difficult for children and youth. At least 140,000 children lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to COVID-19. Youth experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled over the pandemic. And visits to the ER for suspected suicide attempts were 51% percent higher for adolescent girls in 2021 compared to 2019. 

The center aims to help children develop healthy family relationships that encourage emotional development.

“(We give) them that safe space, making them feel comfortable speaking about what’s going on,” said Lauren Pounds, Family Specialist. “Also, just being practical as far as giving them the coping skills they need to ground themselves in the moment and help them identify what their triggers are, so that they can know when they go into these situations how they can expect to react so they can better prepare themselves.” 

The center provides services in-home, at school, in the community, or via telehealth, ensuring that each child has access to the help they need. 

“Mental health is important for everybody,” said Ponds. 

‘We’re open and ready to take clients,” said Robert Lopez, Administrator for Oasis Behavioral Health.

Mental health services are available to those with Medi-Cal or other Medi-Cal-based insurance. Services are also available in both English and Spanish. For more information, visit starsinc.com.

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