Photos are here
Feb. 2, 2017
Women's City Club
Laurel Bear is an Assistant Superintendent in the Alhambra Unified School District. Years ago she created a project of mental health services in an exemplary school-based program, which engages parents, local police, and now addresses homelessness. The need for this program was based upon her previous experiences as a high school teacher, and dean and principal of a continuation high school. In 2016, she was honored as Woman of the Year by recently retired State Senator and LWV-PA member Carol Liu, who chaired the California Senate Education Committee.
Phlunte Riddle’s newly earned doctorate, with its emphasis in behavior analysis, comes after her retirement from twenty-nine years of experiences within the Pasadena Police Department. As a lieutenant, she conducted the cutting edge program HOPE, Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation. She describes this as a compassionate collaboration of police and mental health providers. Currently, she is Assemblyman Chris Holden’s Senior Field Representative, working with mental health legislation. On February 2, we will learn the direction of this legislation, and how mental health issues, including adults and disabled, are being served in our larger communities.
More than sixty members of the League attended our February breakfast meeting to hear Dr. Laura Bear, Assistant Superintendent of the Alhambra Unified School District, describe “Gateway to Success,” a highly successful and honored program. Dr. Bear described this program as a “true school-community partnership, including Alhambra police and fire departments,” which sends a message to the community’s children that “I will be safe.”
The Alhambra community truly believes that they can be heroes to the children, that they will be heroes by engaging children and families. The program provides teacher wellness training and fosters the citywide belief that “We can all be heroes” in the lives of the children. The belief of the community is that “We all have a hand in every child’s success.” Peers are recognized as being even more important to students than their families, so training extends to students as well. Dr. Bear stated “We are always asking how we can be different? We all have a hand in every child’s success. “Our kids need more than twenty-five reliable adults in each child’s life.” It’s a big job.
The stigma that is attached with mental health issues is removed. The program understands that we are all dealing with mental health issues daily. “We know that kids who need the loving the most will ask for love in the most unloving ways.” So Dr. Bear states we have to say “How are you doing today?” The program calls parents to say “school is not the same without Johnnie today” and not to say “Why isn’t your child in school today?” Dr. Bear showed a video of the story of Angel Jiminez. He is a former Alhambra student who was charged with bringing a knife to a school dance. Typically, this brings expulsion. Instead, a school- and communitywide effort was made to guide him through the restitution process. He wrote an apology to the school, he responded to tutoring and school support to bring him back on track. A lot of adults supported Angel, and today he is entering the Sheriff’s Academy. He was an example of how, with Gateways to Success, the community could work together to provide juvenile diversion methods that work.
Dr. Bear went on to say that “25 percent of four year olds have been impacted by trauma. Many are not able to manage their life.” She described Alhambra as a “lab of 14,000 kids.” The Alhambra continuation school looks beyond punishment to provide strategies to help kids; they provide hope, food, and continuous support. Alhambra has had in place a Suicide Prevention policy for the past eleven years. They also have threat assessment, crisis response training, a parent wellness series, parent engagement, and mental health awareness. They recruit parents, called the Blue Chairs Meeting, where parents come with problems in their lives to discuss how to cope with these problems. The program is also working with homeless children, engaging parents in their Golden Bell Parent University, and demonstrating the power of building relationships with parents and children.
This award winning program— under the direction of an outstanding administrator and the continuing district commitment to provide funds—also demonstrates success in improving student achievement. It is a meaningful collaboration built over time and constructed out of a communitywide dedication to reaching all students.
Dr. Phlunte Riddle:
Dr. Riddle, Senior Field Representative for Representative Chris Holden, Assembly District 41, spoke after Dr. Bear. She described her broad range of current responsibilities.
Dr. Riddle first described the Pasadena Police Department’s Hope Team of three officers and a mental health practitioner. Approximately 51 percent of the calls for police services are related to mental health issues. This team doesn’t respond to regular services. It does work with cases involving the mentally ill. We know that mentally ill can be very strong, and these teams require specialized training. Luckily the state now provides training which is mandatory for the police. Also a relatively new partnership with the Health Department sees to it that services are provided.
Dr. Riddle participated in the recent outreach for counting homeless people. The January night she was out, the temperature dropped to 34 degrees. Families were found living in cars with trash bags covering the car windows. This experience underlines how important this issue of affordable housing is. A study by Steven Wallace of UCLA discovered that placing homeless in long-term housing reduced mental health issues by 75 percent. In one housing success story, Pasadena’s YWCA on Holly Street used to be one of the worst places to go into but now it is sustainable housing for the homeless.
Dr. Riddle also discussed the Lanterman Act, which deals with the issue of the developmental disabilities. However, it takes providers—like the Salvation Army—to care for the homeless. Providers are not being compensated at the level necessary to continue those services. Assemblyman Holden committed to seek additional funding for these providers. Currently 280,000 people are dependent on Regional Centers for their care. Those providers are critical components of the system, and AB279, authored by Holden, is working its way through the Assembly. Dr. Riddle encouraged voters to call and write letters to state senators and assemblypersons urging the passing of AB279 to increase funding for and to avoid a mass exodus of these providers.