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LA Will Get Millions Of Dollars For Youth Mental Health. Here’s Where The Money Is Going

A classroom with light blue walls, six white desks and their chairs, with blue walls, a blackboard and tall windows.
A kindergarten classroom at L.A. Unified's Walgrove Avenue Elementary School in Venice. Staff have removed furniture, toys and books from the room to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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A dozen facilities in L.A. County will see an influx of funds thanks to the more than $480 million in grants for youth mental health coming from the state's Department of Health Care Services.

That includes $57.4 million for a 36-bed psychiatric acute care hospital at Kedren Community Health Center in Watts.

“We’re in this place where we don’t have enough resources to care for those with serious mental illness in our community, including a serious shortage of psychiatric beds within the county,” said Kedren Family Physician Dr. Jerry Abraham.

Abraham said the COVID-19 pandemic worked like a magnifying glass for severe mental health needs in L.A. “We clearly saw this huge, hidden burden of mental disease hiding that now is coming forward,” he said, adding that he hopes the county can now focus on solutions like expanding acute psychiatric beds.

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The Department of Health Care Services will assign $19.2 million to Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center in Echo Park so that inpatient adolescent beds can be more than doubled there, from the current 27 to 64.

“There is an increase in children that are suffering drug and alcohol abuse [and] we have seen an increase in children that are suffering an eating disorder,” said Gateways CEO Phil Wong.

Assistance For Mental Health Crises Or Support

Making matters worse, Wong said, many psychiatric facilities in the county are aging and not always the most welcoming to youth going through a crisis. “It feels a little bit like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ and so to have a grant like this for us to build a structure [that is more welcoming] it’s pretty exciting stuff,” said Wong.

The proposed 13,000 sq. ft. addition will allow space for adolescents to receive services like cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy.

The grant comes as part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health.

What many experts call a youth mental health crisis has come to the forefront in recent years, with the U.S. Surgeon General pointing to climate change, racial injustice, income inequality — and now COVID-19 — as well as other factors, all of which have had a “devastating” effect on young people’s mental health.

A full list of projects supported by the grant funds is at the Department of Health Care Services data dashboard.

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.