Tuesday, August 04, 2009


By Alfred Lee, Staff Writer | Pasadena Star News

Posted: 08/03/2009 05:20:29 PM PDT

PASADENA - A lawsuit settlement won by the city of Los Angeles has led to much-needed funding for Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services of Pasadena, which will use some of the money for a grief counseling program for Los Angeles schools, officials said Monday.

The counseling program, which partners with nine middle schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, has been up and running since March and is expected to provide counseling for 3,500 children and families over two years.

In April, then-Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo announced the city had won a $1.6 settlement from College Hospital, which was accused of dumping about 150 mentally ill patients on downtown streets.

In the case that sparked Delgadillo's investigation, a nearby homeless shelter asked the hospital to pick up a 32-year-old bipolar schizophrenic, Steven Davis, who showed up on the shelter's doorstep, because it could not monitor his care. A van came and then dropped Davis off at another shelter.

Davis wandered away before ending up at a clinic that contacted his family and got him treatment.

Four Skid Row providers received $50,000 apiece from the settlement, and another group got $100,000. Another $400,000 in fines went to the city and county.

Some of those downtown agencies questioned why most of the settlement money, $900,000, was apportioned to Hathaway-Sycamores, rather than to the Skid Row shelters.

But officials at Hathaway-Sycamores, one of the largest children's mental health and welfare organizations in Los Angeles County, say that its prevention and intervention services are key to stopping homelessness before it starts.

"I think it took great vision to think about prevention instead of only continuing to provide short-term housing - not that housing isn't important," said Debbie Manners, executive vice president of programs for the Pasadena nonprofit.

"If the Skid Row agencies got all the money, would anybody be asking them why no money went toward long-term prevention?" said Richard Mahan, the organization's spokesman.

Manners said her organization was asked by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office in December to put together a proposal that would set up a grief counseling program at LAUSD schools.

The proposal was accepted, and officials had already begun planning the program when they were made aware of the source of the funding, she said.

"I was like, `Wow, he's kind of a visionary,"' Manners said, referring to Delgadillo. "I really applauded Rocky that he was thinking that way."

Experiences of traumatic loss, such as witnessing the murder of a family member, can lead to mental illness and social withdrawal, which is in turn a cause of homelessness - especially among the high-risk children at many of the schools selected for the program, officials said.

The participating Los Angeles schools are Audubon Middle School, Berendo Middle School, Bethune Middle School, Cochran Middle School, Maclay Middle School, Mann Middle School, Mark Twain Middle School, Nightengale Middle School and Wilmington Middle School.

The program also screens for children who may need additional services that Hathaway-Sycamores specializes in, which includes everything from housing aid to in-home treatment.

Officials say they believe they were chosen for funding in part because of the organization's history of working with school districts. Delgadillo's office "knew some of our staff" from their work running the Center for Grief and Loss for Children, which has an office in South Los Angeles and works with the city and LAUSD to provide services for children there, said Manners.

There was no other connection with Delgadillo's office, said Robert Myers, executive vice president of fund development.

Hathaway-Sycamores is over 100 years old, employs more than 600 staff and provides services to over 9,000 children and their families each year.

The organization offers a "continuum of care" model that includes psychiatric services, gang prevention services, foster care services and transitional living services for children who leave the foster care system once they turn 18.

A residential treatment center in Altadena houses 40 at-risk boys dealing with emotional trauma and mental illness.

"We offer a broad array of services, which creates the opportunity to wrap services around children and their families," Mahan said.

- Wire services contributed to this story.

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