Message From The Director

Collage of Dr. Wong at Skid Row

Dear DMH family,

988, the easy-to-remember phone number for people experiencing mental health-related distress, officially launched in July, offering 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors for anyone with thoughts of suicide, or a mental health or substance abuse crisis. Assembly Bill 988, The Miles Hall Lifeline & Suicide Prevention Act, passed the California legislature with bipartisan support and was just recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. The adoption of AB 988 will transform the way behavioral health crisis assistance is provided to anyone who needs it, and the state will be well on its way to delivering the responsive continuum of care that our most vulnerable citizens deserve. In L.A. County, this translates to reinforcing 988 call center services while continuing to work hard to increase the number of psychiatric mobile response teams (PMRT) and stabilization services to ensure that people get the kind of care they need, when they need it.

We’ve made important strides in increasing our field crisis response capacity with the addition of contracted Mobile Crisis Response Teams (MCOT) to assist on weekends and evenings, as we continue to build our directly operated PMRT capacity. This will allow DMH response to be available around the clock. These additional field crisis response teams will be operational by the end of October in five of our eight service areas, and we are moving forward with securing services that will cover the entire L.A. County.

As Suicide Prevention Awareness Month comes to a close, we know that DMH efforts to raise awareness and work towards comprehensive suicide prevention must continue well beyond September. The L.A. Suicide Prevention Network (LASPN) works year-round to promote public and professional awareness, education, training, and engagement regarding suicide and suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention in L.A. County. One population that we are focusing on is U.S. Veterans. This week, DMH hosted the first meeting of the Veteran Suicide Review Team (VSRT), a multidisciplinary group of professionals and community members that meets to evaluate the circumstances leading to, and causing, suicides. Their goal is to improve community and service systems and to take the kinds of action that will successfully prevent suicides. VSRT is an important step on the path to end veteran suicide in Los Angeles County. Working with our Co-Chairs for this pilot program—Department of Public Health’s Office of Violence and Prevention, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner—DMH will have the necessary facts and essential data to identify trends that will inform countywide strategies for suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.

This Thursday, I was honored to spend time with some amazing people (both staff & clients) in Skid Row. It was a time of great reflection for me as I thought about the past, both my own experiences and what the Skid Row community has come through; the present, with all its challenges & seemingly insurmountable circumstances (over 20 near-death overdoses in one day shift, saved by emergency Narcan administration yesterday); and the future, with all its possibilities and promise. Being there reminded me why I am here, why we are here – the great need before us, and the great efforts that will be required to care for our fellow human beings and serve our communities.

Even outside of Skid Row, many of us (and those we care about) are dealing with a lot. If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help and services at the DMH Help Line or call 988. I encourage you to take time for self-care and meaningful, enjoyable activities. Take time to check in on the people around you. Let’s build an interconnectedness that will allow us to weave a safety net of support and well-being, enabling us to not only survive these times, but thrive.

With All My Heart,

Lisa Wong, Psy.D.
Interim Director, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

Read previous Messages from the Director in our “Connecting Our Community” newsletter archive

Last Updated: 10/6/22