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Program Highlight: School Threat Assessment and Response Team (START)

by H. Chung So, Public Information Officer

Established in 2009 and expanded in 2018, LACDMH’s School Threat Assessment and Response Team (START) was developed as a response to the Virginia Tech Shooting in 2007. It identified the need for mental health resources and supportive services to help prevent premeditated school violence.  At the time of its formation, START was the first program of its kind in the nation, bringing together professionals from educational, law enforcement, and behavioral health settings in a partnership to specifically prevent and address school violence.

“What we are here to do is to enhance and coordinate the services offered by school staff, mental health clinicians, and first responders,” said Maria Martinez, Ph.D., START’s Mental Health Clinical Supervisor. “In doing so, we reduce the likelihood of school violence by identifying early warning signs and connecting troubled individuals with appropriate resources before they resort to harming others or themselves.”

To highlight the demand for such services, Dr. Martinez and Miriam Brown, Deputy Director of LACDMH’s Emergency Outreach and Triage Division, cited the findings of the national Safe School Initiative Report. The report, which studied current or former students who attacked their schools through potentially lethal means, found that assailants often show concerning behavior – such as difficulty adjusting to social groups, prior actions resulting in school disciplinary action, and displaying an interest in violence – prior to their planning and initiating the attack.

By identifying these individuals at an early stage and intervening with appropriate services and resources, START staff and their community partners help stabilize their volatile thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, preventing explicit, implied, or hidden threats from escalating into actual acts of violence.
read more…

Grand Openings for Supportive Housing, Restorative Care Village Projects

Grand Opening Events for La Paz Apartments & LAC+USC Restorative Care Village

LACDMH recently participated in two grand opening ceremonies to provide services and support for individuals experiencing mental health challenges.

La Paz Apartments in the East Los Angeles community opened its doors on June 30. The grand opening brought out LACDMH leadership and staff along with Supervisor Hilda Solis, Meta Housing Corporation, Western Community Housing, and LifeSTEPs. This affordable housing development features 42 apartment units, on-site amenities, community spaces, and supportive programs designed to help individuals and families with mental health challenges who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the LAC+USC Restorative Care Village (RCV) took place on July 6. LACDMH joined State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Supervisor Solis, Department of Health Services, Department of Public Works, and LAC+USC Medical Center for the special event, which celebrated an innovative space that provides a full continuum of clinical and supportive services in a central location to help clients heal, recover, and reintegrate into their communities.

Additionally, the RCV will support a smooth transition between different care settings, including psychiatric emergency departments, inpatient units, mental health urgent care centers, residential treatment programs, and community mental health clinics. This allows clients to receive the appropriate level of care to address their needs and support their well-being at all times.

LACDMH is glad to be a part of both of these opening ceremonies, and we thank our ongoing partners and collaborators for making these projects – which will help numerous individuals and families throughout L.A. County – a reality.

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Launches Nationwide

Talk with Us image graphic for 988 LifelineLogo for 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
With the July 16 launch of 988, the easy-to-remember lifeline number will provide vital support to people experiencing or affected by mental health, substance use, and/or suicide-related crises. Americans can now call or text 988 – or chat on their website – to receive free, confidential, 24/7 emotional support as well as referrals to local resources and services for further help.

As the lifeline is built on a network of state- and locally-funded crisis centers, LACDMH has been instrumental in planning and implementing its launch for L.A. County area residents and communities in partnership with Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.

“We are excited for the nationwide roll out of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number, which will make it easier for people experiencing or affected by mental health crises to get immediate lifesaving help to support their safety and well-being. A key component of this new service is the availability of trained psychiatric mobile crisis response teams who can be connected to through the 988 line when necessary,” said LACDMH Acting Director Lisa Wong, Psy.D.

Check out our 988 site to learn more about LACDMH’s role in the number’s launch, as well as additional help line and suicide prevention resources on our website. LACDMH’s Help Line at (800) 854-7771 is also available 24/7 to provide service referrals, emotional support, and mental health resources.

For more details about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline’s services and resources, visit our 988 page or (P.S. please note that the (800) 273-TALK, the 10-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, remains operational and will automatically route callers to the 988 Lifeline.)

Congratulations to L.A. County “Directing Change” Winners

Screenshot from Directing Change awarded film "Monsters of Mental Health"

Screenshot from Directing Change awarded film “Monsters of Mental Health

Congratulations to the creative youth filmmaker who have been honored by California’s Directing Change Program. This statewide contest invites young actors, animators, directors, and producers to use the film platform to raise awareness for mental health, suicide prevention, and cultural identity issues. Nearly 1,000 films were submitted this year, and we are proud that many winning entries came from our very own L.A. County youth. In total, 51 entries from L.A. County were recognized by this year’s contest with awards and honorable mentions.

A recording of this year’s virtual award ceremony – MC’ed by Queer Eye’s culture expert Karamo Brown – and complete list of winning films are available here. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone who participated to bring attention to mental health issues, reduce stigma associated with mental illness, and connect viewers to supportive resources and services in their communities.

LACDMH and L.A. Metro Sign Agreement to Provide Crisis Response and Outreach Services Within Metro Transit System

Metro subway boarding platform

LACDMH and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) entered into an agreement this week for LACDMH to pilot the provision of comprehensive crisis response services to individuals experiencing mental health crises while onboard Metro vehicles or at Metro stations.

As part of this pilot, LACDMH will staff Metro-dedicated psychiatric mobile response teams (consisting of at least one licensed mental health clinician and one other mental health professional or paraprofessional), co-response teams (consisting of one clinician and one law enforcement officer trained in mental health crisis response) and community ambassador network teams (consisting of outreach and engagement staff). Once assigned, LACDMH and Metro will work together to deploy these teams where needed within distinct areas of the Metro system to de-escalate crises, provide linkage to appropriate mental health services and educate the community. LACDMH will provide mental health training to Metro staff enterprise-wide and has also commissioned a study to assess and help guide the program as it is implemented.

“Throughout our communities, we see the impacts of a growing mental health crisis, and our Metro buses and rail cars are no exception,” said Metro Board Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, who authored a motion in January of this year to implement critical mental health support and connections to resources including housing on Metro’s transit system. “Many of our residents, especially our essential workers, depend on Metro to get to and from work. We owe it to them to ensure their safety while also providing a compassionate approach to individuals in crisis. That is why I authored the motion to facilitate a partnership between our Department of Mental Health and Metro, and today we formalize that agreement. This will enable the County to deploy mobile crisis response teams to provide services and resources to those in crisis on our Metro lines and put forward a model of how we can utilize a care first approach for residents in need.” read more…

VPAN Support Helps Army Vet Reset, Pursue His Dreams

Recently discharged Army veteran and LA native Hugo was facing some serious obstacles during his transition to civilian status.

That’s when he was introduced to Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN).

“I was trying to figure out mental health care through my Medi-Cal insurance.  I was talking to them and I gave them a little about myself, that I was a veteran and recently separated, and I asked, ‘What could I use out here?’” he recounted.  “They said since you’re a veteran and you’re in L.A. County there’s this thing called VPAN.  I went online and filled out the submission form and they contacted me within just a day or two.”

VPAN is a program within LACDMH connecting veterans and their families to a wide range of services including housing and shelter, income support, benefits navigation, employment assistance, health care and individual and family support.  The program is staffed exclusively by other veterans and military family members as peer support specialists.

“They contacted me very eagerly too,” Hugo said.  “I wasn’t expecting such a fast and efficient response.”  Linkage to services soon followed, supporting him, his family, and his dreams of becoming a fireman. read more…

Join Us for WE RISE 2022 Throughout May

We Rise 2022 Promo GraphicLACDMH is proud to be a part of the 5th Annual WE RISE, a series of community-led events that support health and healing across Los Angeles County. From art installations to cultural experiences, WE RISE events are a chance to connect with each other, access helpful resources, and strengthen our community wellbeing. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and, as the ripple effects of the pandemic, social injustice and global pressures continue, now is the time to come together.

Because youth mental health has been disproportionately impacted these last several years, WE RISE 2022 is centering young people’s needs and experiences in this year’s initiative, though events are open to all L.A. County community members.

This year’s WE RISE programming includes:

  • The monthlong “Culture Cures” program featuring activities to support healing, creativity, resilience, and connectedness.
  • The South Central Film Festival will screen films to amplify the voices of BIPOC, LGBTQIA2-S+, immigrant, and differently-abled communities
  • Community Healing Open Mic” that promotes creative expression for all emotions to be seen, heard, validated, and felt
  • A “Soil to Stomach” food growing, foraging, and preparing workshop to encourage healthy eating
  • The “Here to Queer” Community Fair with live music, free food, and wellbeing resources, led by and geared for queer youth and their families

For more WE RISE 2022 information and updates, visit and connect with them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

LACDMH and Partners Expand Access to Neurofeedback Therapy for Youth and Families

Neurotherapy session

by. H. Chung So, Public Information Officer

To support the wellbeing of systems-involved youth and families, LACDMH providers have joined a pilot project to begin offering neurofeedback therapy to help treat behavioral disorders. While this therapy has been readily available in private mental health care settings, this pilot – which trains clinicians and provides equipment to implement this therapy – aims to expand this treatment’s availability to clients who are on public insurance (MediCal) as well as those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Neurofeedback, also known as neurotherapy, involves connecting a client to non-invasive sensors that detect brain activity and to a device that gives real-time feedback – typically in the form of visual, tactile, and/or auditory cues – to guide and reinforce healthy brain function. With repeated applications – a typical course of treatment is two one-hour sessions a week for 10 weeks – this helps the client self-regulate their brain activity and can provide long-term relief for a broad range of mental health symptoms – including those linked with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia – and can enhance the effectiveness of other mental health treatments, such as psychotherapy and medication.

In the L.A. Neurofeedback Pilot (LANP), supported by Pritzker Foster Care Initiative, clinicians from LACDMH providers and other organizations – including school districts and child welfare agencies – are provided in-depth training on neurofeedback usage and benefits for systems-involved youth and families. Upon completion of this training, participating organizations are provided ongoing support as well as a free one-year lease of neurofeedback equipment to implement this treatment in their facilities, along with the option to buy the equipment at a discounted price at the end of the lease. read more…

LACDMH Prepares for “Hollywood 2.0” to Support the Community’s Most Vulnerable Individuals

by H. Chung So, Public Information Officer

Hollywood Blvd Outdoor Photo

In alignment with its mission of “optimizing the hope, wellbeing and life trajectory of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable” individuals and communities, LACDMH has begun planning the “Hollywood 2.0” pilot project to provide comprehensive, community-based care and services to people experiencing mental illness and homelessness in the Hollywood community. Since receiving the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ unanimous approval in November 2021, LACDMH has worked diligently to lay the foundation to prepare for a robust stakeholder engagement process alongside an expansion of clinical and field services in the neighborhood.

This innovative format of service delivery is inspired by the mental health care system in Trieste, Italy, which is recognized for its human-centered and hospitality-oriented approach to meeting wellbeing needs while fostering a sense of autonomy and purpose to support personal recovery. With this pilot, LACDMH hopes to transform the Hollywood community – which has one of the highest concentrations of individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness – into a new model of care and engagement that continuously engages with Hollywood residents to identify their wellbeing needs and find ways to meet them.

To support this transformative care model, LACDMH will be increasing its clinical and field-based staff – particularly in its Full-Service Partnership (FSP), Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement (HOME), and peer service programs – so there will be more opportunities to interact with current and potential clients in the clinic and on the field.

“Peer workers are particularly well-equipped to do outreach and engagement work because they can apply their lived experiences to help connect with those affected by mental illness,” said LACDMH Chief Medical Officer Curley Bonds, M.D. read more…

Therapeutic Transportation Pilot Program Rolls Out Throughout L.A. County

by H. Chung So, Public Information Officer
Therapeutic Transport Vans
LACDMH mental health teams and specialized vans are now embedded at L.A. City Fire Station No. 4 (Downtown L.A.) and No. 59 (West Los Angeles) and actively participating in emergency response calls that come into 911 or to the L.A. City Police or Fire Department as part of the LACDMH Therapeutic Transportation Pilot Program (TTP). Mental health teams respond to a call for someone in crisis in specially designed vans, allowing the client’s healing and recovery to begin from the first moment of contact. All vans are staffed with a psychiatric technician, a peer support specialist, and a clinical driver.

TTP is available at Fire Stations No. 4 and No. 59 seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to provide therapeutic support, de-escalate situations, and ensure safe transit to a mental health center. In the coming months, TTP will become operational in three more L.A. City Fire Stations: No. 40 (San Pedro), No. 77 (Sun Valley), and No. 94 (South Los Angeles). When fully launched, TTP will be operational in at least one L.A. City Fire Station in each L.A. County Supervisorial District. read more…

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About This Blog

Connecting Our Community” is LACDMH’s blog highlighting our department’s news, updates, and resources for Los Angeles County residents and communities. We hope you find these articles useful for learning about our services and resources to promote your and your community’s wellbeing. If you have questions, feedback, or story ideas for this blog, feel free to contact us.


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