We Share the Journey

In 2019, TMHA celebrated its 40th anniversary providing mental health services on the Central Coast. Below is a timeline of highlights that brought us up to the opening of Bishop Street Studios.

Our History


1979: Our history was born from what became the San Luis Obispo Mental Health Association - formerly known as the San Luis Obispo Mental Hygiene Society - and its partnership with the County of SLO. Thanks to a 1979 document titled "The Model for California Community Mental Health Programs," our state had enough evidence to emphasize the importance of quality mental health care, community participation, attention to rural and minority populations, and resources without barriers. From acute and emergency care to case management and outreach services, The California Model inspired state grants to incorporate a wider range of mental health care to all consumers at different stages of recovery. 25 counties ultimately received grants to establish these programs. San Luis Obispo was one of them. And here, our story begins…

1984: Our County took action to overcome the mental health challenges of being unemployed. Anyone who has gone through a period of unemployment understands the frustration and humiliation that comes with the inability to support oneself. Because of people like Barb Fischer, then Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo Mental Health Association, our little town would finally work to enhance the lives of those who were displaced from work. Thus, the Growing Grounds Farm and Nursery was born.

1989: A snapshot of TMHA would look dramatically different from the agency you know today. We played a major role providing youth services in the County, as SLO Transitions operated five different group homes and emergency shelters for runaway and foster youth. As the Department of Social Services changed their philosophy toward emphasizing family reunification, the number of group homes dwindled. Today, TMHA has one surviving residential program for Transitional-Age Youth. The Youth Treatment Program (YTP) is a Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Program, working with kids at the highest level of need in San Luis Obispo County. We readily take in our County's youth as they emerge from psychiatric units and hospital stays to stabilize in a program like YTP. We salute the work of Alley Jensen and her crew.

1993: San Luis Obispo was inspired to reach out to our neighboring County, and the San Luis Obispo Mental Health Association began its first program on South Broadway in Santa Maria. What started as a Social Rehabilitation program and Drop-In Center became the Santa Maria Recovery Learning Community (RLC), which eventually moved to its current location on Inger Drive. Today we serve nearly 1000 clients and family members annually within this part of the Central Coast.  TMHA operates Helping Hands RLC of Lompoc, the Growing Grounds Farm in Santa Maria, Family Services for North Santa Barbara County, and two intensive treatment programs--Lompoc ACT and Supportive Community Services--which provide outpatient services to adults with severe and persistent mental illness. 

1997: SLO Transitions, Inc. and the San Luis Obispo Mental Health Association merged, and Transitions-Mental Health Association was born. Jill Bolster-White led the charge as Executive Director, pledging to continue providing services for those with mental illness at all ages and needs. T-MHA had lofty goals of enhancing vocational services, mental health programs, and community education programs. A bright future was ahead. 

2005: California lawmakers passed The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), dramatically changing the future of mental health resources for the better. The main goals of the MHSA involved increasing awareness of mental health issues, identifying mental health needs before severe challenges arise, reducing barriers to treatment, promoting cultural competency, and eliminating stigma across all public mental health systems. Our County aligned with the goals of this strengths-based model, and we became ever more dedicated to empowering our clients to dictate their own recovery experience. As part of our implementing these goals, we opened our Growing Grounds Downtown store in San Luis Obispo so that our clients could interact with their community while gaining valuable work experience. A variety of our other programs have directly benefited from the passing of the MHSA act, including our Family Services, Education and Outreach, and Behavioral Health Navigation programs, as well as our previous SLOTheStigma campaign. 

2009: Transitions-Mental Health Association moved its headquarters to the former Quaglino Hardware Store, making High Street our new location. We inherited a handy outreach tool: a marquee that over 14,000 drivers see each day. The momentum of reaching out to more folks in our community inspired something huge: we became the sole operators of SLO Hotline, which responded to over 10,000 local calls in this last year. 

2014: TMHA launched 50Now, a collaboration with the Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO) and the County of San Luis Obispo Department of Social Services. The object was to identify the 50 most vulnerable chronically homeless individuals in the County, and provide them with housing.  50Now became 60Now as our County recognized the life-affirming impact of this program - and it only kept growing from there. We are proud to announce that the San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors voted to expand the program for a second time. Now introducing... 70Now! This program addresses chronic homelessness with a “Housing First” model.  Program staff place clients in permanent housing and provide behavioral health treatment, linkages to primary care, case management, and other services that help them stabilize and maintain their housing. The outcomes speak for themselves: our clients see a 98% reduction of bed days in an incarceration setting, a 97% reduction in citations and arrest, a 91% reduction in hospital day stays, and an incredible 89% of clients who increased or maintained their income in the first 12 months.  

2019: Residents have moved into Bishop Street Studios, which was a momentus accomplishment this year. We are continuing to fulfill on our mission through over 40 different programs, and we encourage you to join us. Please explore our careers page, try volunteering, or utilize our services. Thank you for being a part of the Transitions-Mental Health Association community!


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