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Updated: Jan 24, 2020

By the time the Spanish-speaking Martinez family reached out to Alameda County Central Therapeutic Behavior Services, 9 year-old Veronica was facing serious emotional and behavorial challenges. This sunny and creative kid had experienced a lot of loss and instability in a short period- a close friend of hers had recently died in a car accident, and her connection with her father was growing more inconsistent due to his problems with substance use. In response to these losses, Veronica was acting out with dangerous behaviors- like running out into traffic- and would be physically aggressive with her mom and grandmother. Veronica’s mother repeatedly had to leave her work during the day to spend hours at school with Veronica, trying to help manage her tantrums, and as these behaviors escalated, it looked increasingly likely that Veronica would have to be psychiatrically hospitalized.

For eight months, a TBS clinician worked with Vero and her family, both at home and out in the community. Together they worked on relaxation and self-regulation skills that Veronica could use to get her needs met, instead of turning to aggression. Since Veronica was interested in art, her TBS clinician helped her to develop ways to use art as a coping tool. Together, they also created a therapeutic “tool bag” filled with self-soothing items that Veronica could turn to when she started feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

The TBS clinician didn’t just work with Veronica- she also helped Veronica’s mom and grandma to develop more consistency in their parenting approaches, and helped strategize ways to reinforce Veronica’s positive progress. Vero and her family “graduated” from TBS when her goals were met- she has reduced her aggressive and risky behaviors and is now attending school more consistently than ever before, finding a new stability in her life and fostering healthy bonds with her family.

Alameda County Central Therapeutic Behavioral Services (TBS) helps families like Veronica’s with serious emotional and behavioral challenges every day. The program, available to youth and children up to age 21 (and their families) who are already enrolled in another mental health program. TBS provides highly individualized care to kids and families with very acute challenges. Enrollment in the program typically lasts six to nine months and is meant to help participants stabilize and perhaps even step down their level of care. In the case of Veronica, that meant working together to find better coping skills and stop those behaviors that involved danger and violence.

The measurable program goals of Alameda County Central TBS are things like preventing psychiatric hospitalization after graduating from the program, maintaining or improving participants’ living situations, and preventing jail or juvenile hall time after graduation. In 2018, AC TBS had rates of over 90% success in all three of these categories. In addition, the program receives exceptionally high ratings of cultural competence from participants, and multiple bilingual clinicians are available at TBS to work with families for whom English isn’t a comfortable or preferred language.


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