In the wake of the 2020 killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the ongoing movement for racial justice, grassroots organizing in Santa Barbara led by Black Femme leaders fostered an unprecedented response from the County of Santa Barbara. That year, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, and pledged $500,000 to address issues of equity in the county. Roughly half of the total dollar amount was allocated to address internal equity development at the county, with the rest going to the creation of the Racial Equity Fund of the County of Santa Barbara (REFCSB), which is distributed through a participatory grant-making process led by the Fund for Santa Barbara.

This April, the Fund for Santa Barbara in collaboration with the County of Santa Barbara awarded one of its four Racial Equity Fund Grants for 2023 to the Healing Space at UC Santa Barbara, a community serving therapy center that specializes in consultation, therapy and other healing services from an Afrocentric, racial trauma approach. Healing Space, which opened in 2020 in response to a stated need for Black psychologists across the county, is dedicated to supporting and training Black clinicians who reflect the lived experiences of the Black Santa Barbara residents it serves.

“Healing Space has continued to see a positive trend among Black community members who are seeking out our services for the opportunity to work with Black clinicians that truly understand the toll of ongoing racism in the local area and at a national level,” says Dr. Alison Cerezo, Director of the Healing Space and UC Santa Barbara Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology. “These funds will help us to expand our services by offsetting therapy costs, ensuring no one is turned away for lack of funds, and by connecting clients to critical resources like housing, food and employment that have a direct impact on their mental health and wellness.”

The Healing Space is staffed by Black therapists with an interest in addressing the toll of racism on Black residents, and services at the center address the negative effects that racial trauma, marginalization, and injustice have on social and health disparities. Housed in the Hosford Counseling & Psychological Services Clinic, the Healing Space’s therapists are doctoral students in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School of Education, supervised by professors who are licensed psychologists.

The total amount of the grant is $64,277, to be spread out over two years (2023-2024). The funds will assist the Healing Space in closing the service gap for Black community members seeking mental health services by reducing the cost of therapy services, improving the overall wellness of those seeking care by connecting clients to social services, and providing a culturally-affirming training environment for Black psychologists.

The Fund for Santa Barbara (est. 1980) is a non-traditional community foundation that supports organizations and groups working for progressive social change in Santa Barbara County. The FUND is dedicated to helping find solutions to current and emerging social problems and issues that challenge our society as a whole. The Fund’s grantmaking is driven by the conviction that social conditions improve most dramatically when those who have been denied power and justice lead on their own behalf to confront, challenge, and change the conditions that have denied them access to justice and equity.

“We appreciate the recognition of the transformative work the Healing Space has already carried out to build a more equitable, just, representative, and inclusive region,” says Gevirtz School Dean Jeffrey Milem. “This grant will help the Healing Space extend its reach and expand its capacity for its very necessary work.”

The Healing Space will be honored alongside all 2023 Racial Equity Grant recipients at The Fund for Santa Barbara’s Grant Awards Celebration on June 14th at the Lobero Theatre.

Healing Space therapists in spring 2023