Karen Larsen, MFT just passed the one year mark as the Mental Health Director and Alcohol and Drug Administrator for Yolo County Department of Health Services. Prior to this position, Karen was the Director of Behavioral Health Services for CommuniCare Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Center, where she worked for 15 years. In Karen’s current position she is responsible for ensuring high-quality care for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) or severe emotional disturbance (SED), and their families.
Over the past year, Karen has focused her efforts on improving the satisfaction of clients, staff, and contract providers, while strengthening the quality of the care provided and the partnerships that impact the populations served. Examples of these improvements and cross-system collaborations include development of programs such as the grant-funded Community Intervention Program (SB82) which supports law enforcement in their interactions with mental health consumers and the Bridge to Housing program which collaborated with a wide variety of public, private, and faith-based organizations to implement the Housing First model and wrap services around dozens of local individuals experiencing homelessness. Karen has guided the pilot implementation of Laura’s Law or Assisted Outpatient Treatment into an expanded permanent program, therefore, increasing the pre-conservatorship treatment options for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Also, by recognizing the importance of providing primary care services in the mental health setting efforts continue to address chronic health conditions and improve health outcomes for those with an SMI/SED diagnoses. Karen tirelessly seeks out grants opportunities to fund new programs and has reorganized staff teams to improve access to quality care and services. Karen is actively involved in Yolo County’s Health and Human Services integration efforts which began in 2014. The goal is to integrate the services provided through Public Health, Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health, and Employment and Social Services and to streamline access to care for Yolo County residents. Karen has a passion for the field of substance abuse and has managed several substance abuse programs throughout the region. She has worked in every modality of substance abuse treatment including detoxification, residential and outpatient. Most recently, Karen has acted to increase substance abuse treatment supports through transitions such as incarceration, hospital stays, or substance use disorder treatment programs by hiring dedicated staff and awarding contract dollars to this work. Karen has shown leadership in the field of mental health and substance abuse through her participation on several committees and advisory boards including California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions Board of Directors, California Primary Care Association’s Mental Health Task Force, Yolo County Youth Substance Abuse Committee, Yolo County Children’s Alliance and Yolo County Community Corrections Partnership.