Organizations give community emotional support during a sensitive rainy season

Santa Barbara Co. forms 'Community Wellness Team'

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The first rainfall of the season likely brought some anxiety to residents after coming off such a tragic year with the Thomas Fire and the Montecito mudflow.

Shortly after those events, the County of Santa Barbara started a collaboration with more than a dozen organizations, to form the Community Wellness Team.

“It was critical to form the team because we all come from the same belief that the community went through a time of great need and still in, and it was not a need that could be met by one organization alone,” said Suzanne Grimmesey, public information officer at Behavioral Wellness.

While the rain made its first appearance of the season on Thursday, many people went about their day as normal.

“I saw some kids dancing in the rain earlier so that made me happy that it hasn’t been a negative impact,” said Santa Barbara High School Principal Elise Simmons.

But for many, the upcoming rainy season may bring anxious feelings for those who lived through the Thomas Fire and devastating mudflow. The Wellness team is now working together as the rainy season begins.

“It has allowed us to put in place a full continuum of care, from critical incidence stress debriefings for first responders, to crises counseling, short-term counseling, long-term counseling for adults and for children, in the schools,” said Grimmesey. “It has allowed us to provide for the community a whole range of support.”

The Santa Barbara Unified School district is also on board. Simmons says nearly 70 percent of students, families, and staff were affected by the fires and mudslides. She's working with the Community Wellness Team on ideas to help everyone cope through this season.

“We planned some specific events like a moment of silence on Jan. 9th, we are also talking about creating a PSA, and we are also talking about a parent night where we will have the community wellness team there to provide their expertise through this potentially sensitive season,” said Simmons.

“The school's role on the community wellness team is to help and to engage and provide the support for students, but also to help the students, parents, and the community to be prepared,” said Grimmesey.

For more information, visit or contact California HOPE 805 at 805-845-2973.

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