The need for mental health services remains an urgent concern in the County of Los Angeles, and to meet the demand, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Dec. 7 for the opening of a new 24/7 Westside Mental Health Urgent Care Center located at 11444 W. Washington Blvd.
“It’s a wonderful day. We are here to fulfill the promise we made 10 years ago to provide mental health services to families,” said Robin Kay, assistant director of the Department of Mental Health. “We especially want to thank County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authorized and approved our original plan for this facility.”
The ceremony, hosted by Ridley-Thomas and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, will serve 5,900 people annually in the surrounding community. The new 4,800 square feet facility, which will be operated by Exodus Recovery, Inc., will provide crisis stabilization services, including medication evaluation and management, mental health assessment, crisis intervention and discharge planning.
During fiscal year 2014-2015, the Mental Health Urgent Care Centers handled almost 30,000 crisis visits. More than 2,000 homeless persons had their crisis stabilized at Mental Health Urgent Care Centers. Almost 1,000 children and young adults involved in the child welfare system received stabilization services at Mental Health Urgent Care Centers.
“I have long been a proponent of Mental Health Urgent Care Centers which provide intensive crisis services to persons who otherwise would be taken to psychiatric emergency rooms,” said Ridley-Thomas, who added that the new 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care Center will be the second mental health facility operating in the Second District.
“Mental Health Urgent Care Centers are relieving pressure on overcrowded psychiatric emergency rooms. It is so important that people in crisis have a place to turn where they can feel safe and welcomed,” Ridley-Thomas said.
He added that crisis intervention through the Mental Health Urgent Care Centers can help avoid needless violence in the community and that law enforcement brought almost 3,000 persons to Mental Health Urgent Care Centers in 2015.
“It makes sense to build more mental health centers than to build more jails,” Ridley-Thomas observed. “That is why, in September, the Board approved a motion to establish an Office of Diversion and Re-entry, which will make sure that persons with mental illness are directed away from incarceration and directed toward services, housing and recovery.”
Ridley-Thomas said that another 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care Center will open at the Harbor UCLA Medical Center next year.
Luana Murphy, president of Exodus Recovery, Inc., and operator of the WMHUCC, was overjoyed by the opening reception for the facility. “I am struck with how different today is than nine years ago when people didn’t want us around,” said Murphy. “Residents thought we would bring unwanted people to the neighborhood. I’m so glad the community has come together to welcome us.”