BARSTOW After almost a month's delay, Barstow's newest outpatient substance abuse counseling center accepted its first client Wednesday.

Panorama Ranch, part of Yucca Valley-based Morongo Basin Mental Health Services Association, was scheduled to begin outpatient services July 1, picking up where Vista Guidance Center left off.

But before Panorama Ranch could serve outpatient clients, particularly those on Medi-Cal, it needed to be certified through the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs as well as Drug Medi-Cal certified, said Sue Short, substance abuse program director for Morongo Basin Mental Health. It also needed to obtain a conditional use permit, a business license and fire clearance from the City of Barstow, she said.

"If you're contracted with the county, which we are, they want us to be certified," Short said. "Usually if you're going to do a drug and alcohol treatment facility you want to go by the book. You want to be certified."

Panorama Ranch, which has run a residential facility for two years, took over Vista Guidance Center's outpatient substance abuse contract after the center decided not to renew it. Outpatient services at Vista Guidance Center stopped June 30. Apart from the San Bernardino County-run Barstow Behavioral Health Center, Vista was the only outpatient substance abuse counseling provider in Barstow.

Short said Panorama Ranch offers individual and group substance abuse counseling, case management, treatment planning and crisis intervention. It also helps clients who have had their children taken away or are in danger of getting their children taken away because of substance abuse. Parenting classes, child enrichment and therapy, as well as individual, group and family therapy will also be offered through the mental health aspect of Panorama Ranch. Even though it only has one patient now, Short said Panorama Ranch's client load will likely increase as more health care providers and social services are aware of it.

In addition to substance abuse for adults and youth, Short said Panorama Ranch will work with the community to set up an underage drinking prevention program. Similar to programs at Morongo Basin Mental Health Service's Big Bear and Yucca Valley facilities, Short said the plan is to collaborate with community members, teachers and other school officials, probation officers and business owners to combat drinking in youth ages 12 to 20.

"It really is helpful to get the community's input," she said.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com