For more than 50 years, Yolo Family Service Agency provided mental health services to Yolo County. In May, the small nonprofit agency shut down for good.
Former board members say YFSA was a place of personalized care, where patients — primarily children — in need could have more frequent visits, and therapy sessions could go on a little longer.
“That made the organization very unique,” says Mark Capitolo, former board vice chair. “But in some ways, those attributes were difficult to maintain in the evolving behavioral health economy.”
YFSA tried to get 100 visits a month for kids, and sometimes the waiting list ballooned to 30. The Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency had contracted with YFSA for mental health services for children with severe emotional disturbance and those involved in child welfare. But it was later determined that YFSA was serving many children who had less significant mental health conditions and were funded at a lower rate through a different payor source, says HHSA Director Karen Larsen.
“Not only was this not a financially sustainable model, but it also would not have been our clinical preference, as we always prefer services be targeted to those in most need,” she says.
The county had advanced YFSA money in order to assist with cash flow, and this money had to be repaid to the county, Larsen adds.
“We tried to step up and be ready, but our previous executive director passed away and we hired a new director and it devolved from there,” says Karen Ziebron, former board chair of YFSA. “This is something that’s so close to my heart. I feel terrible that I was the one on the board when the agency was determined to be insolvent.”
After the decision was made to dissolve, the county helped transfer clients to other vendors with more sustainable funding models. One of the local contractors even bought YFSA’s building and hired several of their staff, Larsen says. This allowed some patients to receive services in the same location often with the same therapist, despite YFSA going out of business. With a new fiscal year and redone contracts, Larsen doesn’t expect the problem to happen again.
“The waiting lists are cleared,” she says. “It was quite a little whirlwind, but I think it’s all settled now.”