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Center cuts mental health service

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by Nila Priyambodo
Assistant Editor

Tri-City Mental Health Center – which filed for bankruptcy in February – is continuing negotiations with the State of California and the County of Los Angeles to develop a plan to reinstate programs recently cut for cost reasons.

Programs cut by Tri-City, which contracts out to mental health care facilities in Pomona, Claremont and La Verne, include programs in La Verne.

According to Jon Blickenstaff, La Verne mayor, some programs that were cut because of the bankruptcy include counseling in La Verne public schools, such as Bonita High School and Ramona Middle School.

“We had to cut back in services provided in these three cities, including La Verne,” Blickenstaff said. “We had to find replacements from other agencies.”

Bonita High School Principal Robert Ketterling said that Tri-City provided two part-time counselors that would meet with students several days a week to discuss alcohol and drug abuse.

With the program cuts, Bonita High replaced the Tri-City counseling with counseling from the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency.

“We had a great relationship with Tri-City,” Ketterling said. “I don’t really know the new agency that well, but it worked out pretty well.”

Other programs effected in La Verne include the LeRoy Haynes Center, a residential and treatment facility for boys.

However, the University of La Verne was one of the few institutions that were not affected by the bankruptcy.

Blickenstaff said that the University, which has internship programs for students who are going into mental health, would continue to work with Tri-City.

Besides the ULV internship program, other programs that were not cut in La Verne include the child outpatient and adult outpatient services provided in the Tri-City Mental Health Center, said Dean Rallis, the attorney representing Tri-City in bankruptcy court.

The child and adult outpatient programs provide services for severely emotionally disturbed children and adults.

These services include individual and group therapy, educational groups, case management, medication support and monitoring, crisis intervention, self-help groups, vocational services and a clubhouse program, which leases houses for consumers in recovery.

Tri-City provides outpatient mental and behavioral health care treatments, prevention and education to consumers and families. In the mid-1990s, Tri-City began to expand its services to other cities outside of Pomona, Claremont and La Verne. However, in June 2003, the expanding services could no longer be funded.

The cash flow problems led to Tri-City filing for Chapter 9, which allowed them to continue operations while resolving the funding problems. According to Rallis, Tri-City had to cut back on staff and services.

Tri-City has been forced to lay off two-thirds of their staff and close all four facilities except one, which is located on Garey Avenue in Pomona.

Robert Rodriguez, city of La Verne councilman, said that closing the other three facilities was necessary because they needed to work with less people for Tri-City to have enough money to fund the health center.

Blickenstaff agreed with Rodriguez.

“Tri-City is restructuring themselves and downsizing staff in order to work itself out of bankruptcy,” he said.

According to Blickenstaff, Tri-City is still providing services to 1,500 clients, half of which are children.

“There is less service provided to all cities,” Blickenstaff said. “But it is still quite a bit of service. Most cities do not have their own mental health center for low and moderate income families, so 1,500 clients are fortunate enough to have Tri-City,” he said.

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