OPINION: Providing mental health services for South LA families

By Carolyn Wang, for Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic

imageImagine every child in South LA succeeds in school. Now, imagine every child also learns to how to build a lifetime of healthy relationships and emotional well-being.

Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic works daily to make that vision a reality as an essential component of a healthy South LA.

“We can’t build community health without incorporating easy access to mental health services for our children and families,” says the Clinic’s president and CEO Betsy Pfromm.

Since 1924, the Clinic has worked with community partners to create that access.

“We are grateful for our partners’ expertise, as well as for their willingness to embrace mental health as a priority,” said Pfromm. “Our solutions are that much stronger as a result.”

The Clinic relies on its team of compassionate professionals to offer behavioral counseling and support to individuals and families at homes, in schools or through our no appointment, walk-in access center. But Clinic leadership also coordinates daily with fellow mental health advocates in many venues.

One key partner is the Empowerment Congress, originated in 1992 by Mark Ridley-Thomas, now the Los Angeles County Supervisor for the 2nd District.

“The Empowerment Congress provides an invaluable forum for mental health providers and advocates to promote mental health in our community,” said Pfromm, who chairs the Congress’s mental health committee.

Vice President of Advancement César Portillo has worked over the last two years with health, environment, education and community advocates to help launch South LA Building Healthy Communities— a part of a 10-year strategic effort by The California Endowment. The goal: to support the development of communities where kids and youth can be healthy, safe and ready to learn.

Partnership with primary care is essential – and Vice President of Programs Elena Judd is developing capacity to provide mental health services directly onsite at the South Central Family Health Center (SCFHC), while Community Access Coordinator Eric Inouye coordinates co-located services at SCFHC’s campus-based clinic at The Accelerated School. In fact, the Clinic offers services directly at over 20 local Los Angeles Unified School District campuses.

Partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health extends beyond direct service provision. The Clinic supports community planning processes for Los Angeles’ Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) programs.

“In the spirit of collaboration, our partners are teachers, law enforcement, gang specialists, medical professionals, parents, and more,” says Paco Retana, the director of outpatient services. “Together, we will create an effective community treatment plan.”

This year, the Clinic seeks to include even more of the community in their outreach efforts. To commemorate Mental Health Awareness month in May, the Clinic is launching its “Praise A Child Today” campaign. Participating businesses in the Figueroa Corridor Business Improvement District will receive posters offering patrons a free magnet listing 100 Ways to Praise a Child. What better way to build health in South LA?

For more information on this campaign, contact Carolyn Wang at (323) 373-2400 x 3360.

Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic

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