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LA Completes New ‘Village’ To Provide Medical And Mental Health Care To Most Vulnerable

A series of three images in a collage style shows, from top left, the front of a two story building with orange details on its cross beams and a staircase leading up to the front glass doors. Then a photo of a man wearing a blue sweater and grey coat on a tour with two other people gesturing with their right arms. Below is an interior photo of one of the patient rooms, which has two blue beds, and two short drawer units beneath a window.
L.A. County Deputy Mental Health Director Jonathan Sherin gets a tour of the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center’s new Restorative Care Village in Sylmar with Jo Ann Yanagimoto-Pinedo of DMH (middle) and County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
(Robert Garrova
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It’s called a Restorative Care Village. Its purpose is to provide health care for the region’s most vulnerable population.

L.A. County officials celebrated the completion of the $100 million-plus project on Friday. The village will provide ongoing medical and mental health care for people who may not have a place to live and need support beyond a short hospital stay.

One of several such villages that will be opened across the county, this one was built around oak trees above the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar.

How It Works

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The facility has 48-beds for medical needs and 80 behavioral health beds.

Department of Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin said those beds will give people who are experiencing a mental health crisis time to stabilize — up to two weeks — and undergo treatment while staff members get in touch with patients’ families or try to find housing for them.

Dr. Sherin said the idea is to provide services so that patients “can have an enduring recovery and remain in the community — not be on the streets, not get sent to jail and not be in and out of hospitals and emergency departments.”

Officials hope villages such as this one will help slow the growth of L.A.’s rising unhoused population. An L.A. Times analysis found that about half of the county’s unhoused population live with a mental illness.

Set to fully open to patients in January, the campus in Sylmar will also include a mental health urgent care and outpatient facility.

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Major Mental Health Needs Remain

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who spoke before Friday’s ribbon-cutting, said hospitals say they can not manage the number of psychiatric patients that come through their doors.

“Anyone who tours an emergency room and sees ... the overwhelming condition of people who are in psychiatric crisis lying in gurneys for endless hours, know that’s not right, that’s not humane and it’s not effective,” Steinberg said.

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said the county is still thousands of beds short of what mental health experts say is needed.

Barger pointed out that the Restorative Care Village has five separate buildings for crisis mental health services, each housing 16 beds. That’s because of a law that prohibits the county from receiving federal dollars for a mental health facility that has more than 16 beds.

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“This greatly hinders the county’s ability to efficiently scale up beds that are so critically needed,” Barger said.

Dr. Sherin said Restorative Care Villages across the county will add a total of 240 crisis residential treatment beds.

“That’s nowhere near enough,” he said, “but it’s a significant piece of the solution.”

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Robert Garrova is reporting on the intersection of mental health and law enforcement.