Undaunted and Ready to Serve Those Living with Mental Illness

By Giving List Staff   |   October 29, 2021

Barry Schoer is all too familiar with the stigma surrounding mental illness. As the president and CEO of Sanctuary Centers, which has provided inpatient and outpatient care and affordable housing to more than 10,000 people suffering from mental illness, Schoer has encountered all manner of opposition since the organization opened its doors in 1976.

He remembers nearby residents protesting to try and prevent construction workers from remodeling a new treatment facility during the first year of operation. And when the Sanctuary Centers was running out of space at five of its buildings a few years ago, Schoer approached a real estate agent about renting an office building across the street to house administrative staff. A few days later, the agent sent an email saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger, but the landlord doesn’t want your kind in this building.”

But Schoer and his colleagues at Sanctuary Centers remain undeterred. They are steadfastly committed to fulfilling the mission set by the organization when it was founded 45 years ago: providing comprehensive mental health care and community reintegration to those living with mental illness. 

Today, patients with serious mental health disorders have life expectancies that are 25 years shorter than the global average, according to the World Health Organization. Santa Barbara still faces a shortage of affordable supportive housing and people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse still encounter significant barriers for receiving preventative health care and specialized counseling.

Sanctuary Centers ensures that they receive the quality care they need, whether it’s counseling, housing, or even doctors and dentists. “There really aren’t many programs in the country that provide a continuum of care quite like what Sanctuary Centers has done in the last 45 years,” says Director of Philanthropy Laney Smith. “It’s all about giving people independence and stability.”

What really sets the organization apart is the community reintegration piece. Through the Supportive Housing program, people with a mental illness are able to live in their community while continuing to receive counseling support.

“When people struggle with mental illness, their families maintain hope that they can have that breakthrough,” Smith says. “And when they do, it’s pretty remarkable for them to achieve.” 


Sanctuary Centers

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(805) 569-2785
President and CEO: Barry Schoer


It is our mission at Sanctuary Centers to provide our clients with powerful, comprehensive, transformative mental health care. Our compassionate and experienced clinical team provides each and every client with a diverse array of proven treatment services designed to ensure success. At Sanctuary Centers, mental illness is not a roadblock that makes progress impossible. We are here to provide the stepping stones needed to overcome them.

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Expanding Services to Those in Need

Sanctuary Centers is seeking to raise $18 million to build a five-story facility that will significantly increase its ability to serve those living with mental illness and substance use disorders. Located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, adjacent to the Sanctuary Centers’ Outpatient Mental Health and Housing campus, the new facility will nearly double its number of affordable housing apartments and significantly increase its number of individual and group therapy rooms. Until now, the fundraising drive has relied on major gifts from friends of Sanctuary Centers, including two special benefit concerts hosted by musician Jackson Browne. Today, the organization is embarking on a more ambitious fundraising campaign to ensure the long-term sustainability of its programs and services.

Key Supporters

Martie Levy
Mark Levine
Dennis Clark, CPA
Ellen Broidy, Ph.D
Karin Napel
Nicole De La Loza Rivera
Mike Stein
Marsha Marcoe
Christina M. Behrman
Michael Young, Ph.D.
James Joyce, III
Olivia Loewy
Meagan Harmon
Marianell Schaaf
Mike & Dale Nissenson
Deborah Schwartz
Art Jarvis
& Claire-Lise Benaud-Jarvis
Richard Donner
Phyllis Gilmore
Denise Jarvis