The latest online edition of CLA's Impact Magazine

Cal Poly Researchers Assessing LGBTQ Mental Health Services in San Luis Obispo County

October 2020 Update

Jay Bettergarcia's work was featured in the CSU's recent "Transforming Tomorrow" publication about the impact of CSU-related research. Learn more about the impact report at Download the page that features Bettergarcia's project here.

March 2019 Update

Jay Bettergarcia received a $519,700 grant from the County of San Luis Obispo Mental Health Services Act in February 2019 to support the SLO ACCEPTance Project, an LGBTQ+ mental health training program in San Luis Obispo County.

Jay Bettergarcia
Jay Bettergarcia

The SLO ACCEPTance Project aims to provide academically-informed, in-depth LGBTQ mental health training for mental health professionals.

Key Components of the SLO ACCEPTance Project:

  • Comprehensive and empirically-based (but not yet tested) training program delivered across three intensive 2-3 day trainings for MHP and peers with lived experience.
  • Professional case consultation meetings with trainers provided between each of the three trainings.
  • Development of a network of providers who can consult with each other and others in the community after the training program ends.

Through innovative and comprehensive LGBTQ provider training, SLO ACCEPTance Project will create an team of approximately 50 Mental Health Professionals, including both Master's and Doctoral level therapists. The goal is to develop a diverse team of peers with lived experience and MHP from various agencies (including schools, private practice, etc.) and from various geographic areas across the county, particularly areas that are most underserved.

The trainings are separated into three phases. Each phase will consist of a two or three-day weekend training that provides didactic learning, experiential activities, role plays, and case conceptualization. The three training phases include:

  1. Phase I: Cultural Sensitivity: Language/Awareness
  2. Phase II: Clinical Issues for Client
  3. Phase III: Potential Provider Issues

This multi-faceted training approach seeks to address the lack of access to LGBTQ-affirming mental health professionals who can adequately serve the LGBTQ population in the various small town communities of San Luis Obispo County.

The SLO ACCEPTance Project is distinguished from other training approaches in that it employs a new, never-before implemented curriculum and professional training program developed by experts in the field of LGBTQ mental health. It includes a focus on developing cultural competency and explores differences between normative and non-normative behaviors.

Fall 2018

The Queer Community Action, Research, Education and Support (QCARES) team, led by Cal Poly psychology faculty member Jay Bettergarcia, received a $25,000 grant from San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) to evaluate mental health services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals in San Luis Obispo County. QCARES is contracted to assess the quality of local services offered and to identify the barriers to mental health care for the LGBTQ+ community. The grant represents the first time San Luis Obispo County MHSA funds have been used to target LGBTQ+ mental health and wellness.

Queer Community Action, Research, Education & Support

QCARES is seeking LGBTQ+-identifying individuals 14 and older to participate in a survey or in a focus group, or both, to help researchers learn more about access to services, barriers to accessing care, and experiences with support services in San Luis Obispo County.

Results of the study will be used to create community development initiatives that support LGBTQ+ mental health and wellness across San Luis Obispo County. Bettergarcia says the need for quality services in the county is clear. According to the 2015 California Healthy Kids Survey, approximately 48 percent of LGBTQ+ youth in San Luis Obispo County report having seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months. Further, in a survey of LGBTQ+ community members, LGBTQ+ supportive mental health services and youth services were among the top rated service needs in San Luis Obispo County (Growing Together Initiative Executive Summary, 2015).

“Using community-based action research, we hope to create innovative mental health programs, develop an infrastructure of trained LGBTQ+-affirming therapists in San Luis Obispo County, and help address some of the issues that are most relevant to LGBTQ+ mental health and wellness,” Bettergarcia said.

For more information about the project, visit

The Queer Community Action, Research, Education, and Support (QCARES) was created to bridge a gap between research and action within LGBTQ+ communities to create lasting change. The group uses community-based participatory action research to engage with individuals across various underserved communities as they seek to understand common challenges and develop innovative solutions. QCARES is driven by evidence and data to create social change and influence policy. QCARES was developed by Bettergarcia, and the team hopes to connect and educate through research, trainings and community involvement.

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