Second Story

Second Story: Mental Health Home Gets a Second Chance

Generous donation keeps peer-run facility open

Second Story is Santa Cruz County's alternative to in-patient psychiatric care.

Encompass Community Services CEO Monica Martinez thrilled mental health advocates when she announced in an Oct. 3 press release that the Second Story peer-run respite house would remain open after all, and for the foreseeable future. The flagship program is Santa Cruz County’s only alternative to inpatient psychiatric hospitalization.

Less than a month earlier, Martinez and Santa Cruz County health professionals had reluctantly decided to close the home after weighing financial and bureaucratic hurdles facing the program, as reported by Good Times at the time. After reading GT’s story, private donors came together to make an anonymous contribution totaling more than $1.1 million—the largest in Encompass history—and enough to pay off a state loan on Second Story’s Aptos property. Encompass will own the six-bed mental health facility and be able to keep offering comprehensive services for years to come. A portion of the donation will finance the cost of the program’s operations while Encompass and the county draft a long-term sustainability plan.

Second Story’s expected closure came as a shock to the program’s staff last month. Erik Riera said at the time that a complicated funding situation made the program—a model for almost a dozen respite houses across the nation—unsustainable. After eight years, Second Story was set to close its doors at the end of November.

Yana Jacobs, who helped establish Second Story almost a decade ago, was looking to save the program, searching for ways to reconfigure the house or move funding around to sustain services. That responsibility has been lifted off her shoulders. “I’m exuberant and relieved and have a joyous, renewed faith in humanity,” Jacobs tells GT via email. “Our work resonates with a call to social justice in the mental health arena.”

At Second Story, staffers are taking a deep breath. Excited voices are bouncing off the walls of the living room as piano music plays in the background. “It’s really starting to set in,” says Program Manager Adrian Camp. “The magnitude of the gift—to give us the house. I’m awed by it. It’s unbelievable.”

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