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LA Falls Short On Promises To Better Respond To Mental Health Crises

One of the dispatch centers that send out teams working on the Therapeutic Transport Van program. A man wearing a blue uniform sits at a large desk that has eight or more computer screens on it displaying a range of location and other data.
One of the dispatch centers that send out teams working on the Therapeutic Transport Van program.
(Raquel Natalicchio for LAist )
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I don’t know about you, but to me these past few years have been rough. There’s the COVID-19 pandemic that seems to be never-ending, several police brutality cases and a whole lot of socio-political turmoil.

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Let’s take a minute to breathe deeply.

Starting in 2020, our lives have been flipped upside down and THAT has wreaked havoc on our daily systems. This is especially true for those who are marginalized — whether they are low-income, people of color, women, LGBTQ+, disabled or all of the above. I don’t think I’ve acknowledged how much all of the weight of what has happened in our world over the past few years has impacted me.

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LA Struggles To Provide Adequate Mental Health Support

After the brutal police killing of George Floyd Jr. and the protests that followed, Angelenos demanded change in how the police interacted with the public. In response, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a proposal in 2020 to create an unarmed model of crisis response that would divert nonviolent mental health calls away from police.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

The city was supposed to seek non-profit partners to start this program and create a new classification of city employees who could respond to these calls. But, as my colleague Robert Garrova reported in his latest story, our city and county leaders have fallen short of meeting their promise.

While the city has chosen contractors to lead the effort, the pilot program the city council approved has yet to launch. There is a patchwork of county teams responding to calls, but there are simply not enough people available to do the work, leading to lengthy response times.

Robert talked to families affected by this, including Deborah Smith's. Her son ended up going to jail one night after experiencing a mental health crisis. In her experience, the response times can range from two hours to an entire day.

“No matter how much you ask for the help, getting the help is not something that is guaranteed,” she said. “You’re left scared out of your wits, going ‘What do I do now?’”

Smith’s fears are understandable. According to the L.A. Police Department, out of 37 department shootings in 2021, “more than half involved individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.”

For more on where the city goes from here, read Robert’s story here.

How to LA podcast host Brian De Los Santos also spoke to Robert about the promises made a few years ago and the potential solutions, and to Ben Adam Climer who has helped develop unarmed crisis response programs in cities like Huntington Beach and Garden Grove. Listen to the episode here.

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As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

More News

(After you stop hitting snooze)

  • As promised, Mayor Karen Bass officially declared a state of emergency on homelessness in Los Angeles. She plans to release more information on her “Inside Safe” plan in the coming days.
  • Gil Cedillo, the former L.A. City Councilmember who was caught up in the racist tape scandal that shook L.A. politics in October, released a statement Monday explaining why he did not resign before his term was over. Cedillo stayed in office until Sunday when his successor Eunisses Hernandez was sworn in. (NBC
  • Public health officials across the country are urging people to consider masking indoors with the surge in cases of COVID, RSV, and the flu. It is being referred to as the “tripledemic.”
  • L.A.’s most famous big cat, P-22, was captured in a backyardin Los Feliz on Monday. Last week, wildlife officials said they wanted to bring him in for an evaluation after some unusual behavior. 
  • The rollout of a L.A. Unified School District plan for deaf and hard of hearing children is facing backlash from parents and others. The policy, which calls for children to be placed in a bilingual American Sign Language program, has renewed an old debate about whether students should be taught to sign or focus on speech skills instead.
  • L.A. Taco ranks the 69 best tacos in the city in 2022. Evil Cooks, Balam Mexican Kitchen, Macheen and Mariscos Jalisco made the cut. (L.A. Taco
  • California’s paid family leave benefit isn’t only for new parents. Not a lot of people realize this but you can use it to care for a sick spouse or other relatives in need. A new study finds that this benefit has helped women, in particular, keep their jobs while they care for a loved one.  
  • A 31-year-old culture writer and software engineer tracked all the trending topics on Twitter in 2022. This is what he found.
  • *At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

Wait... One More Thing!

A New Era for Asian American Progressives in Power

City Council President Paul Krekorian wearing a navy blue suit, with peppery short hair whose back faces the camera faces a smiling Kenneth Mejia who wears a dark suit and Hydee Feldstein Soto who wears a white blazer with black trim and holds her right hand up.
Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian swears in Kenneth Mejia as Los Angeles City Controller and Hydee Feldstein Soto and Los Angeles City Attorney at the swearing in for Karen Bass to become the 43rd mayor of the City of Los Angeles at the Microsoft Theatre at L.A. Live on December 11, 2022.
(Brian Feinzimer
for LAist)

Kenneth Mejia, the newly elected Los Angeles city controller and the first Asian American to hold city-wide office, has been at the forefront of a group of increasingly visible Asian Americans who have called for progressive policies in L.A.

These progressive candidates, my colleague Josie Huang writes in her latest piece, campaigned outside of a “Democratic establishment that backed incumbents.”

This new group of progressives is challenging the status quo and, as Mejia told Josie, Bernie Sanders has been a huge influence on them. The 2020 police killing of George Floyd Jr. also impacted Asian Americans in a way that moved them further to the left — as they’ve had more conversations about racism, justice and standing up for others outside of one specific racial group.

“I do think that there is a sense of a burden to push back against anti-Blackness, and also a desire to be seen and recognized and not invalidated as a POC community,” political organizer Meghan Choi said.

Read more in Josie Huang’s story here.

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