1st county-operated, mental health program addresses high demand for youth services in Palmdale

Leo Stallworth Image
Thursday, April 4, 2024
New mental health service provides treatment to kids in AV
The need for a new adolescent mental health program stems from an exponential population increase in the Antelope Valley.

PALMDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- Los Angeles County officials celebrated the grand opening of the Antelope Valley's first county-operated, youth-centered mental health program at its new offices in east Palmdale.

The Antelope Valley (AV) Child and Adolescent Program is the first adolescent outpatient program in the Valley to serve all juveniles under 21.

The facility offers individual, group and family therapy, crisis intervention, case management and community linkage, medical evaluations and psychological testing.

The program has 30 trained health professionals and additional case workers to support juveniles with community resources that go beyond mental health needs.

The new program's predecessor, the Kids Connection Program, only serves foster kids under 18.

"We are talking about thousands of children having a need to be seen," said L.A. County mental health professional Theion Perkins. "It was apparent that there was a great need, and to see this uphill battle come to fruition, it made me very emotional because I started saying in 2017 that we needed a direct out child clinic."

Perkins said she and others in her field have fought for years to get this program up and running to provide outpatient services for all youth in the AV.

"Today's event was more than just opening the county's first AV clinic for children and adolescents, it was about welcoming the community through our doors and helping them become familiar with the critical care that L.A County Department of Mental Health can provide to the region's families,'' said Mental Health Clinical Program Manager James Coomes.

According to Coomes, the need for an adolescent outpatient initiative stems from an exponential population increase in the area.

AV's population has grown from roughly 380,000 to about 540,000, yet mental health services haven't expanded to meet the residential increase.

Community health worker Esmeralda Flores says it breaks her heart knowing that a growing number of young people struggled with depression and anxiety without a youth-focused program in the AV to help.

"If they see that there's no help, the results are bad and I don't want that," Flores said through tears. "That is one thing I don't wish on anyone, on them or their parents, to lose a child ... know that there's somebody here that can talk to you,"

Although most patients will have Medicaid or Medi-Cal to cover treatment, any child can visit the outpatient facility, regardless of having insurance coverage. The program will usually find a way to provide free or low-cost services.

"Don't feel afraid, don't feel scared, don't feel anxious and know that we are here to support you 100%," Flores said.

The facility, located at 2323 E. Palmdale Blvd., Suite A, will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.