Mental Health Center Coming to MLK Campus

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Join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, health leaders and the community August 27 for a ribbon cutting celebration for the new Mental Health Urgent Care Center (UCC) at the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus. The Mental Health Center is near the recently opened MLK Outpatient Center and the new hospital, which is scheduled to open next summer.

The new mental health urgent care center, which will open its doors September 2, will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will offer a variety of services including psychiatric evaluation and assessment, crisis intervention, medication support and medication management. In addition, individuals and families can receive treatment, alcohol and drug counseling and prevention, domestic violence screening and referrals to other community resources where people can seek help.

Too many people in Los Angeles County are in desperate need of psychiatric services and yet too few places are available to help. Hospital emergency rooms have become ground zero for psychiatric patients in need of help—making it a very expensive way to treat people with psychiatric problems.

The center will be run by Exodus Recovery, Inc., which has been providing psychiatric and chemical dependency treatment services in Southern California since 1989. The organization has developed and established several hospital based inpatient and outpatient programs, a psychiatric and internal medicine provider group and a behavioral health managed care company.

While there is an emphasis on serving the indigent and Medi-Cal patients, no one will be turned away. Anyone over the age of 13 will be accepted but adolescents will be served in a separate space from the adults.

“These are the kinds of services people need to get back on their feet,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “I am looking forward to opening this center as well as watching Exodus continue to build strong ties to community centers, faith-based organizations and housing resources to help those in need and at risk.”

County Unveils Pilot Program to Combat Sex Trafficking

Los Angeles County is moving forward to strengthen the safety net for children who have been victims of sex trafficking. After two years of work, county departments are working together to provide wraparound services for these young people.

“It is our job to protect our children,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “And we will not empower sick unscrupulous pimps and johns who buy and sell children on our streets to criminalize our children as prostitutes. Our children are victims needing our support.”

1MZ_0150The Supervisor joined Board Chairman Don Knabe and representatives of multiple county departments to unveil the first Los Angeles County pilot program to establish a first responder protocol for sex trafficking victims.

Where once young people picked up on sex-related charges were treated as “prostitutes,” both supervisors, emphasized that no child should be given the label.

“Changing the culture, especially in government, can be very difficult, as we all know,” Supervisor Knabe said, adding “but these girls, who may be a neighbor or may be a relative are being tortured with physical and sexual abuse.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation determined that Los Angeles is one of the nation’s 13 high intensity child prostitution areas, and it is estimated that, 3,000 children in the region are victims of trafficking. T average age these young people are forced or coerced onto the streets is between 12 and13 years-old, and increasingly, sex trafficking is a highly lucrative business run by gangs.

1MZ_0141With the new protocol in place, it is the county’s goal to see that underage victims of sex trafficking no longer are arrested, detained and released in what is often an unending cycle. With the paradigm shift, it is the goal of law enforcement, mental health officials, child protection agencies to surround the victim with care and treatment, ensuring, for example, that they are placed in a safe housing, enrolled in school and given proper physical and mental health services. And the program is only the first of many steps that will be coming to help these children.

The board of supervisors will receive quarterly updates on the results of the new system.

“The pilot is an important first step that establishes a strong response team that will be individualized—treating the needs of each victim, one child at a time,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “What we truly hope is that it creates a bond of trust between these children and the adults who do care about their welfare and have their best interests at heart. With trust, these children can heal. As they heal, they can begin to rebuild their young lives.”

Life Saving App Now Available

Everyday Heroes Needed

Roslyn de la Torre was on her way to work when she saw a crowd gathered around a man who had collapsed of an apparent heart attack on the sidewalk. A registered nurse, de la Torre got out of her car and immediately began giving the man CPR. Within 4 minutes, the paramedics arrived but it may well have been de la Torre’s quick actions that saved Elbert Kirby’s life. With a person suffering a heart attack, the first two minutes can determine life or death.

“It’s amazing that CPR is the reason I am here today,” said Kirby, a 50-year volunteer with the American Red Cross.

This narrow window of timing in which life can hang in the balance, is why Los Angeles County officials have launched PulsePoint, the “AMBER alert for cardiac arrest victims.”

When a person is in cardiac distress and a call is made to 911, one of the five public safety communications centers in the county activates the app which sends an alert on the phone and gives a GPS location at the same time that local fire and emergency responders are notified.  It was developed by PulsePoint Foundation, a San Francisco based organization that is building applications for public safety agencies, and supported by the Wireless Foundation, a nonprofit that includes several wireless provider companies that support wireless innovation and initiatives


Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby, Mrs. Elbert Kirby, Mr. Elbert Kirby, Roslyn de la Torre, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the event.

Celebrating its launch, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Fire Chief Daryl Osby joined de la Torre and Kirby as well as the app founder in Inglewood joined together for the official release.

“Simply put, this app is really a life-saving opportunity,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Now qualified responders can do their part to help a heart attack victim. It is a great resource for all county residents.”

The app, which is free, is available for both iPhone and Android phones. More than 13,000 people in the county have already downloaded PulsePoint but county officials hope more residents take part.

“Mobile technology can help us build and safer, more resilient community,” said Chief Osby.

Added de la Torre, who is now friends with Kirby and his wife, “A few minutes can make a difference in saving someone’s life.”

For more information on CPR classes throughout LA County, residents can call (323) 881-2411 or email

Civilian Oversight Delayed, Not Denied

In a show of strong support for the creation of a citizen’s oversight commission, hundreds of people attended Tuesday’s board of supervisor’s meeting to demand a civilian role in reforming the department.

In often moving testimony, many residents spoke of their personal experiences of abuse at the hands of deputies and urged the supervisors to create a forum where their concerns and insights could be heard. No such outlet exists today, and the newly constituted office of the inspector general is no substitute, they said. Incidents of wrongdoing by deputies and department leaders, which have only become public in recent months, some testified, had long been known to people in neighborhoods throughout the county.

DJA_0073“A board, even an advisory committee can provide the community with an avenue; the [inspector general] isn’t the community,” said Patrisse Cullors of the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence. “ When my brother was brutalized our family had nowhere to go.”

Greg Akili of Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance, told the board that unwarranted shootings and abuses by deputies had created a profound lack of trust in many neighborhoods akin to the ill will that once existed between the Los Angeles Police Department and some communities.

“It took many years of struggle; it took a federal consent decree to finally move the LAPD… let’s stop moving from crisis to crisis,” Akili said.

Despite overwhelming testimony in favor of a commission, only Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina voted in favor of the motion they sponsored to create one.DJB_0295

“No two ways about it, I am disappointed – disappointed that the board did not listen to the vote of the people,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “So yes, I’m disappointed but not disheartened. Disappointed but, may I say, undeterred.

“Police commission structures exist in Oakland; Long Beach, CA; San Diego; San Francisco; New York City,” the supervisor continued, so we are not talking about something new. This isn’t a novel innovation; frankly, civilian oversight is just considered a best practice across the nation.

“The people of Los Angeles County deserve to have a say with regard to their Sheriff’s Department and I am confident that they will get it. If not now, then sooner rather than later,” he said.

Treatment vs. Incarceration: $20 Million Proposed for Mental Health Programs

Los Angeles County incarcerates the largest population of mentally ill people of any county in the nation. District Attorney Jackie Lacey, jail reform advocates, fiscal watchdogs, and the supervisors all have voiced concerns about the County’s inhumane and expensive system, which repeatedly cycles mentally ill people in and out of custody.

The supervisors unanimously have acknowledged this circumstance, and in recent months the board has committed to exploring methods of redirecting mentally ill offenders to treatment instead of jail. At present, however, the county has set aside about $3 million.

That’s not enough to make a meaningful effort at diversion. That’s why Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is asking the Board to start to demonstrate its financial commitment by setting aside an amount that is the equivalent of 1% of the $2 billion already set aside for jail construction and renovations.

The results from successful diversion programs across the country are encouraging. Intensive treatment lowers recidivism, resulting both in fewer new victims of crime and lower incarceration costs. In New York City, the Nathaniel Project saw a reported 70% reduction in arrests over a two-year period and Chicago’s Thresholds program resulted in an 89% reduction in arrests, an 86% reduction in jail time, and a 76% reduction in hospitalization for program participants.

“It is time to stop talking about treating mentally ill people with dignity; it’s time to stop talking about taking a fiscally responsible approach to managing our jail population, it’s time to act,” the supervisor said.

The Supervisor’s proposal, which will return to the Board for a vote in coming days, parallels findings outlined to the Board in a presentation by the district attorney. Lacey, who hosted a summit of 60 law enforcement leaders, mental health workers and community advocates last spring, identified six preliminary goals for the county. They are:

1. Training for all criminal justice professionals.

2. Expanding the capacity for behavioral health treatment for mentally ill offenders.

3. Implementing a data study that examines the types of services needed, the capacity needed for those services and the population(s) most in need of these services.

4. Improving communication/coordination among all system partners to remove silos and implement a shared database.

5. Developing policies and procedures to guide service capacity utilization.

6. Creating crisis alternatives centers/crisis stabilization centers that can be utilized by law enforcement, consumers and families of consumers.

7. Expanding the availability of housing for mentally ill offenders.

Embracing and investing in diversion, however, may not be just a matter of choice. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice warned the county that its quality of care for mentally ill offenders and the high number of inmate suicides in its jails did not meet constitutional standards.

“There’s a moral question at hand in this process,” Lacey said. Are we punishing people for simply being sick. Public safety should have a priority, but justice should always come first.”

Freedom School Probation Camps Deliver Results

The United States imprisons approximately 70,000 youths nationwide on any given day. Annually, the U.S. spends about $88,000 per juvenile—the costliest and highest youth incarceration rate in the world.

So, the non-profit advocacy organization, Children’s Defense Fund, has created a model program that inspires incarcerated youths to enjoy reading and increase their self-esteem; the goal is to help them reform their lives and stay out of the justice system.  The CDF Freedom Schools program, which originally began as a general school summer camp to prevent reading loss during summer vacation, came to Los Angeles County probation camps last year.

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Anecdotally, the program seemed successful; the joyful enthusiasm of children and their mentors was infectious even to casual onlookers. So, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been an advocate and sponsor of Freedom Schools throughout his district, commissioned a study to quantify the results. Evaluators, consultants, CDF-CA staff and Second District staff conducted a total of 75 hours of informal observations at the probation camps which participated in the program.

The results of the study are overwhelmingly positive: the students’ interest in reading grew, behavioral problems—including fights among the juveniles—decreased, and the relationship between staff and students improved significantly. Most importantly, the young students seemed to get the bug for learning.

“What I like most about Freedom Schools is we got teachers who care,” noted one student. “My teacher, she cares, so you gotta respect her. I like her like my grandma.”

The CDF Freedom Schools program is unique:  The sessions begin with Harambee! (A Swahili word that means Let’s Pull Together), a 30-minute activity where participants sing motivational songs, cheers and chants, read aloud, and share a moment of reflection. The curriculum is focused on culturally relevant books that reflect their images and center on the theme “I can Make a Difference.” Everything is dropped for 15 minutes before lunch except reading in D.E.A. R. (Drop Everything and Read) Time. And the kids are treated with respect, including being referred to as “scholars.”

“Freedom Schools helped me with my vocabulary,” said another scholar. “We have a word wall, now I know all of these big words like ‘empathy,’ you know, like ‘bombastic,’ and there are a lot of more difficult words. It’s improved my vocabulary.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted that the Freedom Schools program is essential in helping all of society in the long run.

“The incarceration of American youngsters in the juvenile justice system has serious consequences for all of us,” he said. “The CDF Freedom Schools program is one very effective way of giving young people a chance to improve their lives.”

Click here for last year’s evaluation report.

Freedom School evaluation team and community leaders during July 3, 2014 release.