Localizing Mental Health Services in Long Beach

November 9, 2021

Long Beach City Council

411 W Ocean Blvd

Long Beach, CA 90802

Dear Honorable Mayor Garcia and Members of the City Council:

Long Beach Forward strongly supports agenda item #45, “Localizing Mental Health Services in Long Beach” and asks for your affirmative vote on this timely action. Item #45 directs the City Manager to work with the Department of Health and Human Services and local mental health providers to explore the feasibility of establishing a more robust infrastructure for mental health services.

Before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, every aspect of mental health has continued to be a significant priority and a deeply felt need within the communities and neighborhoods we work with--from acceptance and stigmatization, and to access and service delivery. Within the Best Start Central Long Beach network, Black, Latinx, and Cambodian community leaders have continually prioritized mental health as a key priority and democratically allocated resources to projects that address the persistent gaps that exist in culturally competent mental health resources. As community leaders have engaged in the city budget cycle year after year, more concern has grown over the structural inequities that exist for sustaining ongoing mental health resources.

While promising models and services for mental health exist in particular pockets of the city, it is clear from our day-to-day experiences that the medicine is not strong enough. Despite Long Beach operating its own Health Department, the City’s mental health services are under the purview of Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Los Angeles County directly provides or contracts with local providers to provide a full array of services, but in many instances, the service planning and implementation is not in coordination with the City or local providers to ensure people in need of mental health support don’t fall through the cracks. At the same time, the role of local government has been expanding in recent years.

We know that addressing the vast health inequities that exist in the city will not be solved by just one approach. As we focus on an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering a proportionate response to the mental health epidemic requires that we fully integrate our service network by localizing our approach to addressing mental health issues. Better coordinating the many different arms of Long Beach’s mental health services apparatus is vital – this already existing local infrastructure will serve as an excellent foundation to

support our efforts to tackle this crisis. We see the exploration and action towards localizing mental health services as a meaningful step towards providing health and trauma-centered alternatives to mental health crises.

The Long Beach Racial Equity and Reconciliation Initiative calls on Long Beach to “increase investment in mental health and trauma services, including facilities, professionals, community responses, and culturally tailored resources.” As we acknowledge communities of color face especially high rates of mental illness and psychological trauma, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19, moving towards more locally tailored outreach and service provision can help reduce these inequities.

For these reasons, Long Beach should work together with local partners and the County of Los Angeles to explore adaptive and localized collaborative approaches to mental health. As a city that recognizes the need to treat mental and physical healthcare as equivalent, asymmetries in program administration between city and county services allow far too many to fall through the cracks of our mental healthcare system, and we support this proposal because it will serve as a starting point from which to build the more robust infrastructure Long Beach so badly needs.

For these reasons, Long Beach Forward strongly supports Council agenda item #45 and requests an “Aye” vote. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at james@lbforward.org. We look forward to working with the City of Long Beach on the exploration and implementation of this item upon its passage.

In solidarity,

James Suazo

Executive Director

Long Beach Forward

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