A place to go: New east Sacramento outpatient center allows students, workers to squeeze in therapy

Sutter Center for Psychiatry unveils larger, relocated ‘healing environment’

Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrel Steinberg speaks during the November 16 grand opening of a new outpatient therapy center in east Sacramento.

Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrel Steinberg speaks during the November 16 grand opening of a new outpatient therapy center in east Sacramento.


A grand opening in east Sacramento last week provided Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg the opportunity to weigh in on one of his favorite policy topics: mental health.

The Sutter Center for Psychiatry unveiled its new outpatient center on November 16, now relocated from a retail section of Howe Avenue to across the street from Sutter’s inpatient center on Folsom Boulevard. At nearly 10,000 square feet, the facility is almost double the size of the old center, offering children and adults access to individual, group and pet therapy, as well as classes, without hospitalization.

The program is the only one in the greater Sacramento region that is part of a nonprofit health-care system, Sutter Health Valley Area said in a release. Sutter’s inpatient center, meanwhile, is the only one in Northern California with beds for children under 12. Plans are in place to eventually offer a children’s outpatient program as well, the release stated.

“Any day we cut a ribbon to expand mental health care services in Sacramento is a great day,” said Steinberg, who made his comments in a room with an industrial design, with poured concrete floors and exposed duct work, before touring the rest of the facility.

The rest of the building was outfitted for healing—accent walls are photo-wrapped with nature scenes from all over the world and each therapy room was designed by the therapists who utilize them in order to enhance their group sessions. There are also different entrances for patients of different age groups, who will be able to access after-work or after-school therapy. Those evening programs, aimed at patients who want to obtain mental health support without disrupting their careers or schooling, are new to the center and will begin this month at three to four hours a session.

“At the end of the day, mental health is brain health and mental illness can be looked at as something that is going on in the brain,” said Sutter Center for Psychiatry CEO John Boyd, commissioner of the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission. “Many people don’t want to speak up if they are going through a mental health challenge and just stepping into a healing environment can be transformative.”

“This is what we need more of in Sacramento and in California,” Steinberg said. “I am going to have the privilege of raising my hand in a couple of weeks and become the mayor of this city, and these issues of mental health and homelessness and early prevention, as John Boyd talked about, are going to be front and center in our city.”

The county has already been experimenting with different approaches to reaching its mentally ill homeless population.

Earlier this month, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors doubled the amount of mobile crisis support teams that pair law enforcement with county mental health clinicians, intended to offer alternatives to inappropriate hospitalizations or unnecessary incarcerations. Currently, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and Sacramento Police Department run one team apiece, in south Sacramento and downtown, respectively. Out of the 338 people the teams have contacted through June 30, the county says 70 were either connected to homeless mental health services or shelters. Another 26 required emergency medical care.

As mayor, Steinberg says he wants to ameliorate the city’s mental health and homelessness challenges. While he has no official power over mental health services—that resides with the county—Steinberg has already expressed interest in working with supervisors.

There’s little doubt about his qualifications. When the state shifted $2 billion in mental health funding to put roofs over the heads of mentally ill homeless people back in June, that was seen as a victory for Steinberg, the former state senate leader who authored the funding bill. Steinberg says he is hoping to use his legislative connections to pull a decent amount of funding into the city.

The new outpatient center, meanwhile, will reach a different part of the population.

“We talk a lot about the unending cycles that involve untreated mental illness,” Steinberg said. “And certainly homelessness is the most visible manifestation of untreated mental illness. But it’s not just homelessness. It’s family members.”

The mayor-elect knows about that personally. His daughter, Jordana Steinberg, lives with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

“This issue knows no artificial boundaries,” Steinberg added. “It doesn’t know class. It doesn’t know race. It doesn’t know neighborhood. It knows no gender, it knows no sexual orientation. Everybody knows somebody.”