A Case for Investing in Mental Health Services to Prevent Violence

Dec. 30, 2013 / By

Since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last November, there has been a continued national discussion prioritizing mental healthcare as a means to end violence in communities.

A recent survey conducted by the California Endowment found that a majority of voters, 67 percent, strongly believe that more mental health services can prevent violence in schools. Others assert that it is important to improve mental healthcare, but contend that mental health and violence do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.

In Long Beach Unified School District there are already more than 1,400 students receiving mental health care each year, a number that has quadrupled since 2000. Yet despite existing mental health programs, there is still a need for greater access to care.

Since the start of the recession in 2009, California has reduced funding for mental health treatment by $4.6 billion.

“The challenges that remain are that many individuals have only Medi-cal or no insurance benefits.  The county is their only option in these cases therefore their system becomes very impacted and people fall through the cracks,” said Patti LaPlace, Mental Health Coordinator for the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. According to LaPlace even successful non-profits providing mental health services are severely impacted with long waiting lists of clients who need care.

Michele Gutierrez, a patient and advocate for mental health care, agrees that now is the time for change.

“It’s a very pivotal time for advocating for more holistic and extensive mental health care,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez grew up in a Filipino-American community in the Westside of Long Beach, where she faced a cultural stigma against receiving mental health care.  “You don’t talk about problems outside of the family or inside the family,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez attributes both the stigma and a lack of available resources as reasons why she was not able to access mental healthcare until she reached college. “I always wanted to get mental health services, but I didn’t get any [in high school]… I always think about what young people are left with, with no idea which direction to go to.”

Once in college Gutierrez began meeting with a school therapist, which she says “resulted in a lot of healing and clearing up of a lot of issues.”

Since then Gutierrez has worked to end the misunderstanding of those receiving mental healthcare. Recently married and in graduate school, Gutierrez has a warm personality and has been involved in several community organizations working to create positive change in Long Beach.

The reality is that the majority of mental healthcare patients are not violent or scary. Research shows that a person with mental illness is about 2.5 times more likely to be the victim of violence than the perpetrator, a fact stated by President Obama in a press conference last month.

Gutierrez thinks that a re-thinking of mental healthcare as a normal and necessary component of overall well-being can help alleviate the stigma that often stops people from seeking help.

“The term mental illness is wrong because it implies that something is wrong with you that needs to be  fixed – that there’s some sort separation between normal people and those that are deemed having mental illness,” Gutierrez said. “Another reason people resist mental healthcare is that idea that you’re the other. In reality there’s a spectrum of pain and healing that people just need help navigating or dealing with.”

Receiving counseling or therapy can prevent larger emotional distress from developing later on. “Some resources such as emergency services can be over utilized whereas counseling and support services can be under-utilized,” said LaPlace.

“I just feel everyone should have counseling… It’s a really good tool for understanding yourself, healing and talking through issues you went through,” said Gutierrez, “It’s the difference between walking across the country and taking a plane. Most people only talk to their friends and friends don’t really know what to do, they’re not professionally trained.”

[pullquote]“I just feel everyone should have counseling… It’s a really good tool for understanding yourself, healing and talking through issues you went through,” said Gutierrez.[/pullquote]

Khmer Girls in Action (KGA), a community organizing group that empowers Southeast Asian youth in Long Beach, is in the midst of a campaign to bring Wellness Centers providing increased preventative support services and mental healthcare to Long Beach High Schools.

A research report released by KGA in 2011 found that half of Cambodian youth in Long Beach showed symptoms of depression.  The group will hold a resource fair and health forum at Martin Luther King Jr. Park Social Hall on Feb. 21 to discuss the issues impacting Long Beach Youth and how schools can be transformed to better support the health and overall well-being of students.

The City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services provided Voicewaves with a list of local mental health resources.  The City of Long Beach does not endorse any one service over the other.

Though some resources require health insurance, county and non-profit agencies will accept MediCal and/or sliding fee payments. Individuals are encouraged to call and inquire about services.  Some agencies will provide no cost interventions on a limited basis for crisis intervention services, but will require payment for more long-term treatment.


For a list of some Mental Health Resources in Long Beach, see below:

Long Beach Mental Health Center
1975 Long Beach Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90806
(562) 599-9280
Emergencies (800) 854-7771
Long Beach Asian Pacific Mental Health
(co-located at Long Beach Mental Health)
(562) 599-9401

Mental Health America-Village ISA
456 Elm Ave
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 437-6717

Older Adult, Adult, Adolescent &
Child Outpatient treatment. By
appt or walk-in. Triage &
crisis intervention, program and
wellness center services available
8:00 M – 5:00 PM, Mon – Fri
Weds. 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Memorial Counseling Associates
4525 E. Atherton St.
Long Beach, CA 90815
(800) 633-7888

The Guidance Center
3711 Long Beach Blvd
Suite 600
Long Beach, CA 90807
(562) 595-1159

Family Service
2 Long Beach locations
5500 Atherton St. Ste 416
Long Beach, CA 90815
(562) 493-1496

1043 Pine Ave
Long Beach, Ca 90813
(562) 436-3358
M-F, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Some evening and weekend appts available

Pacific Asian Counseling Services
3530 Atlantic Ave Ste. 210
Long Beach, CA 90807
(562) 424-1886
M-F 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Some after hours crisis intervention
Available for PACS clients only

Care Program at St Mary’s
1050 Linden Ave
Long Beach, CA 90813
(562) 624-4999 or 624-4900

Long Beach Comprehensive Health Ctr
1333 Chestnut Ave
Long Beach, CA 90813
(562) 599-8787
Walk in hours 7:30 AM – 7:30 PM
Saturdays – 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

730 W. 3
underserved populations such as
Long Beach, CA 90802
uninsured, underinsured, Medi-Cal
(562) 435-5040
and sliding fee scales. No one is
refused services because of an inability
to pay. Designated Federally Qualified
Health Center. (FQHC)

The Children’s Clinic
3 Locations:
1057 Pine Ave
Long Beach, CA 90813
(562) 366-5900

2801 Atlantic Ave
Long Beach, CA 90806
(562) 933-0400
M-F (call clinics for specific hours)
Some Saturday and evening appointments

Jewish Family & Children Services
3801 E. Willow St
Long Beach, CA 90815
(562) 427-7916

Pacific Resources Psychological Group
4201 Long Beach Blvd #230
Long Beach, CA 90807
(562) 988-1000

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Justine Calma

Justine is a journalist with a passion for social justice: her experience as an immigrant woman of color have led her to pursue issues in women’s empowerment, and be guided by the principal “think globally, act locally.” She graduated from UC Irvine in 2010 with degrees in International Studies and Literary Journalism. While in college she was involved with the Filipino student organization, Kababayan, and was part of the student movement for affordable education. After college she joined Public Allies LA, an Americorps program that provides individuals with personal and professional development to lead in the nonprofit sector. While at Public Allies Justine interned with Khmer Girls in Action, where she now works full-time as a media & program coordinator.