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Mountain View family gives $1M for mental health care facility at El Camino


Photo courtesy of the Satake family
The Satake family donated funds to improve mental health services locally in honor of their parents, James and Akiko Satake.

The Satake family purchased 36 acres of farmland in Mountain View Dec. 2, 1941. When Pearl Harbor was attacked five days later, their family business took a detour.

With forced internment for Americans of Japanese ancestry approaching, the Satakes secured a permit to voluntarily relocate inland to Nevada and then Utah – ending up in a town near Topaz, a camp where their Japanese friends and neighbors from the Bay Area were interned. James Satake, then a senior at Palo Alto High School, ultimately enlisted in the U.S. Army, served in Germany and returned to Mountain View with his family years later. His parents, Shinajiro and Shimano Satake, started a farm that over the years transformed into the long-running Satake Nursery on Marilyn Drive.

Four generations later, the Satakes have maintained their local roots. They closed the nursery after 60 years and sold much of their remaining land to SummerHill Homes in 2007; it was redeveloped as housing. This year, siblings Russ Satake, Julie Satake Ryu and Gail Satake-Nakamura – along with their spouses Anita Lusebrink, Edwin Ryu and Stacy Nakamura, respectively – together made a local gift in honor of their parents, James and Akiko Satake. They’ve donated $1 million to Fulfilling the Promise, a special fundraising initiative for mental health services at El Camino Hospital.

Legacy of help

Family experience led them to know El Camino and its crucial – but seldom discussed – psychological resources. Akiko was treated for severe depression at the hospital, a part of their family story that for years was seldom spoken of but remained an undercurrent that shaped their lives.

Their gift is helping build a new mental health facility that will expand local treatment options, particularly for young people, new mothers and seniors seeking help.

Russ Satake grew up on the family property before moving across the street and then one neighborhood over – to Los Altos. He serves on the board of the El Camino Hospital Foundation. As he learned more about the hospital’s plans to tear down its aging mental health facility and build a new, expanded space, he began thinking about asking his family to make a contribution in honor of their parents. Russ said he doesn’t feel as though he and his siblings had thought in detail about their personal experience with mental illness, but he remembers how traumatic it was when his mother died at age 50, while her children were in high school and college.

“I never remember her experiencing depression that I saw – you’re a little kid – but I remembered conversations my dad and her would have about something,” he said. “Some combination of things happened that first year I was away at college – change of life, I don’t know – and she fell into a really deep depression and was hospitalized over here at El Camino Hospital. I remember visiting her, and that she seemed to be coming out of it when she passed away.”

Akiko’s cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest – heart failure. Her children shifted their academic plans to take on new responsibilities at home. Russ came home after college to help run the family business. He recalls that it wasn’t until they started compiling a family history in 2007 that they reflected on how their mother’s illness and death had a profound effect on their lives. Their life experience with depression, but also with sinking deep roots in Mountain View, made them feel a sense of obligation to the community, Russ said.

“We wanted to give in a way that hopefully would encourage others to do something similar,” he said.

Facility to support needs

The existing mental health facility was built in the 1960s, and patients currently share rooms with up to three other people. Its infrastructure is dependent on the old hospital building – slated for demolition – so El Camino Hospital’s board has faced a choice in recent years: Follow a national trend and just close the inpatient mental health services, which are less profitable than other hospital services, or commit to building something new.

“The hospital board has decided to make it a priority to do this, which is commendable because it is not a profit center by any means,” Russ said. “It’s more serving the community.”

The hospital partners with local nonprofits and agencies such as the Community Health Awareness Council and Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley to find and serve those in the community with a need.

Three particular programs stand out among the hospital’s psychiatric services. An afterschool program for adolescents provides intensive outpatient treatment. The older adults service works with seniors facing issues such as loss of a spouse or transition between living situations. A program for women with post-partum depression will have new dedicated beds and space for new moms requiring treatment to visit with their families.

“When you stop to think about all the people in your life who have stories, you think about it in a different light,” Satake said. “You realize there’s so many issues out there.”

“This is a tough conversation, but everybody has a story,” said Jodi Barnard, president of the El Camino Hospital Foundation.

The James and Akiko Satake courtyard in El Camino Hospital’s new mental health inpatient facility is scheduled to open in 2018.

Barnard said work on the new building – slated to begin in 2017 – will expand from 24 beds in shared rooms to 36 private rooms, divided into areas of focus such as a special mothers’ unit. Each separate patient area has its own enclosed indoor and outdoor space and dedicated nursing staff and dining area, as well as separate family gathering spaces. The fund- raising initiative seeks to secure sustainability and expanded reach for its outpatient programs, as well as contribute to the new building’s physical structure.

Building on gifts

Los Altos residents Donna and John Shoemaker launched Fulfilling the Promise with a $1 million donation in 2014 as a first-of-its-kind campaign focused on mental health. Earlier this year, Los Altos residents Mary and Doug Scrivner issued a companion $1 million fundraising challenge aimed specifically at creating an endowment for the adolescent treatment services.

“There is tremendous capacity here,” Barnard said of the community’s growing attention to the complexity of mental wellness, and the growing need. “Many hospitals are closing their doors on this kind of work.”

The hospital foundation has raised approximately $6 million thus far.

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