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Empowerment Congress Café Promotes Mental Health

Empowerment Congress Mental Health Cafe held at the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Empowerment Congress (EC) Mental Health Committee, and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) hosted a café to highlight new and innovative ways of promoting positive health and well-being in the community.

Over 200 people attended the event, which featured interactive exhibits showcasing all five aspects of the mental health services the County provides, including psychiatry, psychology, nursing, social work, and peer resource.

“We want to ensure that you learn as much as you can today and that you also learn how to remain engaged,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  “The County is counting on you to make “Your DMH” as dynamic, diverse and multidimensional as you are.”

“The EC Mental Health Committee is excited to host an interactive event with the community that highlights the new DMH,” said EC Mental Health Committee Chairman Dr. Jack Barbour.

The event also highlighted the critical services for particularly vulnerable residents, including Street Outreach and Engagement in Skid Row and the rest of the County, Outpatient Services, and Prevention and Early Intervention. DMH has also invested efforts into innovative and interactive technology tools that are being piloted including wellbeing apps.

“I used to be homeless but DMH help me to find a place, go to therapy, and get proper medication,” said Tammy Lee, a resident of South LA.

DMH Director Jonathan Sherin said, “We are very excited and proud about our investments to care for and support the well-being of our most vulnerable residents and communities. Today, we celebrate those efforts in South LA and look forward to having similar events throughout the county.”

Also highlighted were the capstone projects taking place in the Second District including the new DMH Headquarters in Koreatown and the transformation of the long-shuttered King Drew Hospital into a state-of-the-art Behavioral Health Center in Willowbrook.

The Empowerment Congress is a distinctive and deliberate national model of civic engagement built on the core principles of participatory democracy, reciprocal accountability, and intentional civility. It is a dynamic partnership among neighborhood groups, residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses, religious institutions, and community leaders within the diverse communities of Los Angeles County’s Second Supervisorial District.

New Learning Center at MLK Medical Campus

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas welcomes children and parents at the MLK Learning Center open house. All photos by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

The latest jewel on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus is a Learning Center that will serve up to 100 children of medical staff and the surrounding community of Willowbrook.

Celebrated by children, parents and caregivers at a recent open house, the facility includes a 9,000-sq. ft. playground, pint-sized tables and chairs and, of course, lots of cubbies.

The interior remodel includes two infant rooms, two toddler classrooms, three preschool classrooms, an administrative office, reception counter, staff lounge and support spaces. The outdoor playground area includes walkways, shade structures, fencing, landscaping and rubberized matting.

KinderCare, a nationwide care provider, will operate the center. No stranger to providing care to Los Angeles County’s youngest constituents, KinderCare also operates the facility at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus and at the child care center located at 83rd and Vermont Ave.  

An Empowering Prayer: Thank You!

Thanksgiving is a season of brotherhood and generosity providing a time for reflection and perspective. I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU!  Thank you for your time, energy, caring, leadership, and focus on creating a better quality of life for communities throughout Los Angeles.  The question is often asked: What are you grateful for? It is such a simple but potentially powerful question.  I invite you to take a moment with me to consider what you are grateful for. Is it health, family, mobility, or the gift of the challenges that face us? When gratitude is present, powerlessness and poverty subside. You need not be religious or spiritual, but I hope you’ll take part in this most empowering prayer of gratitude.

With hope and gratitude,

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Los Angeles County Supervisor, Second District

Protocol to Protect Sex Trafficking Victims

As Los Angeles County announced progress in combatting the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion aimed at building on the success of the First Responder Protocol which, during its first four years, led to the recovery of 361 young people from traffickers.

Authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the motion called for an external evaluation and longitudinal study of the Protocol to maintain consistency in practice and fidelity to the model as it is scaled up.

“The First Responder Protocol has made an undeniable difference in the lives of hundreds of exploited and abused young people,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “While it is disheartening to learn of the history of trauma and maltreatment that has plagued so many of these children and teens, it reminds us that there are multiple opportunities during a child’s life for any one of us to report abuse, provide support, and prevent or intervene in the pernicious crime of child sex trafficking.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, center, with LA County Department of Children and Family Services Division Chief Ed Fithyan; LA County Probation Department Child Sex Trafficking Unit Director Michelle Guymon; Dr. Carly Dierkhising of CalState LA; and Atty. Kate Walker Brown with the National Center for Youth Law after they provided the Board of Supervisors with a report on the First Responder Protocol.

“As this innovative Protocol enters its fifth year, it is rightfully held up as an exemplar for other jurisdictions,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “I believe it is worthy of an outside evaluation – one that will validate its findings and strengthen its effectiveness as it is scaled up.”

The Protocol was the result of a motion approved by the Board. Launched in 2014, it defines key steps that law enforcement, County safety net agencies and community-based partners should take within 72 hours of coming into contact with a potential victim of commercial sexual exploitation. Instead of re-traumatizing them by arresting them for crimes committed by pimps and johns, the Protocol diverts these children and youth from incarceration, and connects them to safety, stability and hope.

Given the physical and mental trauma they have experienced, the Protocol focuses on meeting their immediate needs and supporting them to achieve long-term safety and stability through intensive wrap-around services, including making sure they have a community-based advocate and a team of other professionals who remain in their life for a minimum of 90 days, but sometimes for several years.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has long been an advocate for these children and youth and, in 2015, authored a motion that led to the creation of the Integrated Leadership Team (ILT), a collaboration among several County departments now tasked with overseeing and implementing the County’s response and approach to their commercial sexual exploitation. The ILT’s findings in its report on the first four years of the protocol include:

  • 361 children and teenagers were recovered from August 14, 2014 to August 14, 2018, some more than once – one youth was recovered nine different times;
  • the average age at first recovery was just under 16 years old, and the youngest victim was 11 years old;
  • 359 are girls; 2 are boys;
  • 85 percent had one or more prior child welfare referrals;
  • 71 percent are African-American, 18 percent are Latino or Latina, and 10 percent are white;
  • 65 percent received a medical evaluation within the first 72 hours after recovery;
  • the immediate wrap-around services resulted in a significant drop in the number of youth who ran away once they were recovered. With continued support and engagement, only 12 percent disappeared after the first 72 hours.

The Protocol was piloted in areas served by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Compton and Century stations, and by the Long Beach Police Department. As of July 2018, the protocol was fully implemented at all Sheriff’s stations and at all divisions of the Los Angeles Police Department. Representatives from multiple jurisdictions, including the Counties of San Diego and Alameda, and the states of Alabama, Texas, and Washington have met with protocol personnel to learn how to implement the Protocol in their respective jurisdictions.

In the meantime, County departments and community organizations will continue working together to ensure that Los Angeles County remains a transformative leader in how the country serves youth and families who have been affected by commercial sexual exploitation.

Below is a series of videos about the issue of sex trafficking in Los Angeles County:


L.A. County Engages Tech Industry in the Fight Against Homelessness

The Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office/Homeless Initiative and the Chief Information Office have launched a new initiative to enlist the technology industry in the Countywide effort to prevent and combat homelessness. In a bold move to harness the resources and expertise of tech companies and foster more strategic investment in the sector, L.A. County issued a call for solutions with the potential to creatively accelerate outcomes for people experiencing homelessness. A broad industry representation, including large data and tech companies, civic tech, start-ups, digital services, virtual reality firms and academia, have already signaled their strong interest in partnering on this critical effort, with upwards of 150 participants convened at a recent County-hosted technology innovation forum on homelessness.

The Countywide movement is seeking diverse partners and new approaches to deliver what’s working more effectively and to foster inspired thinking and sustainable solutions around housing, data, customer empowerment and operational effectiveness. Submissions are due mid-November.

“Los Angeles County is partnering with technology companies to harness skills, ideas and innovation that will accelerate and scale up solutions to house people experiencing homelessness,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas who championed Measure H. “This is Measure H at work – creating thoughtful and inventive ways to help our most vulnerable residents so that we can create communities with dignity and purpose for all who call Los Angeles home.”

“As L.A. County continues to work to prevent and combat homelessness, we are always working to expand collaborative efforts with new partners who are willing and able to help,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Homelessness is a complex and multi-faceted problem, and partners in the technology industry offer uniquely valuable expertise. L.A. County is leaving no stone unturned, no option unexplored, in the fight to ensure everyone has a home.”

“Combating a homelessness crisis of this magnitude will require that we create partnerships across many sectors,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “Working with stakeholders in the technology sector enables public partners to innovate more quickly and measure their success more effectively.”

“The Homeless Innovation Technology Initiative marries tech talent with the real challenges surrounding homelessness in L.A. County. The tech community is coming together to create tangible innovative solutions,” said Bill Kehoe, Los Angeles County Chief Information Officer.