The City Council on Monday unanimously approved the proposal of a working group for the City to work with the Los Angeles County to expand mental health services in Pasadena and identify appropriate properties in the city for possible location of a mental health facility.
The City Council made the move as it seeks to address the challenges being faced by residents in accessing mental health services locally.
Pasadena has its own health department but it does not have the responsibility for providing mental health services to residents — that falls within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH).
“During the pandemic, we saw the need for mental health services and primary care health services grow exponentially,” Mayor Victor Gordo said. “The pandemic as we all know exacerbated a problem that we already knew existed.”
In early summer of 2022, a working group which included Mayor Gordo, Councilmembers Tyron Hampton, Felicia Williams, Justin Jones, and the late Councilmember John Kennedy, as well as representatives from Huntington Hospital, Fuller Seminary School of Psychology and Pacific Oaks College and the Office of Supervisor Kathryn Barger was formed to identify and address mental health care concerns in Pasadena including the lack of outpatient services to mental health patients
According to Gordo, one of the lessons learned by the working group from the meeting with Dr. Jonathan Sherin, former LACDMH director, is that there is a shortage of mental health professionals both in California and LA County and this shortage existed even before the pandemic.
Gordo said Fuller School of Psychology and Pacific Oaks College made a commitment to join in if ever the plan pushes through.
Currently, Fuller School of Psychology educates 300 mental health professionals while the Pacific Oaks College educates over 250 mental health professionals annually.
Gordo said the working group also learned that when an individual experiences both a mental and health challenge or a dual diagnosis, the LACDMH will only treat the mental challenge and this results in patients bouncing from one clinic to another as they seek treatment for their other illness.
“Dr. Sherin made clear to the City Council the need to fix the system by allowing for comprehensive treatment of both mental and physical health challenges of individuals who present with dual diagnosis—and doing so at one location—thereby eliminating the need for persons to go from clinic to clinic,” Gordo said.
Pasadena’s efforts to address the need for mental health services received strong support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Last March 7, the Board of Supervisors approved Supervisor Barger’s motion to partner with the City of Pasadena to explore the expansion of health and mental health services, and the feasibility of identifying appropriate properties in the City of Pasadena for possible co-location and joint occupation for purposes of health outpatient services and housing.
The motion also directs the Chief Executive Office in conjunction with the Departments of Mental Health, Health Services, and Public Health to develop a funding plan for site acquisition and construction, as well as for operations of the property for outpatient services and housing.
“To have the County’s support as we move forward with our private sector partners and academia and Huntington Hospital is a tremendous achievement,” Gordo remarked. “I’m hopeful this partnership will lead to a physical location in our city that provides primary health care services… also the mental health services that are so desperately needed in every segment of our community.”
“This effort and movement toward local mental health resources, outpatient resources in our city is imperative because there are communities in the City of Pasadena that are disproportionately affected by mental health,” said Councilmember Jones. “Mental health is not a stigma, it affects all of us so it’s imperative that we as a city along with our community partners address this together.”