Mental Health Help for SB Kids – A Quarantine Interview with South Bay Children’s Health Center
Thanks for joining us for our Zoom Quarantine Interview Series. I’m excited to share with you my conversation with Lisa Daggett, Director of Development, and Angela Wilson, Director of Mental Health for South Bay Children’s Health Center. As we all know, mental health is extremely important during this pandemic, and they are working extra hard to make sure that all South Bay kids get the mental healthcare that they need. Enjoy our conversation.
Brenna: So, welcome and thank you so much for joining me. At Select South Bay, we like to do something we call sharing South Bay sunshine, so we like to look at all the people that are doing good and organizations that are doing good, and try to make sure that those are brought to light so that everybody is aware of all these positive forces in our community, and you guys are certainly one of those. So, Lisa, can you give a quick overview of what the center does in general, what you guys are all about?
Lisa: Sure. It’s hard for me to do that without giving you a little bit of history. We were founded by a group of parents back in 1947 as part of the United Way, but the reason that we were founded is to help fill the gaps in services, in healthcare services at a time where families were just getting back on their feet after World War II had ended, and there wasn’t a lot of healthcare services available for kids living on low income families, living in poverty. We started an organization that started as a dental clinic at what is now Redondo Union High School. We provided a whole bunch of different services. We started with dental care. We had, well-baby services. We had hearing. We had vision services, and we were kind of the go-to for low income family. Today, we provide services to over 25,000 children, teens and young adults each year. Our focus is on mental health and dental. That is our main focus because that’s where the two biggest gaps, two of the biggest gaps in health services lie in the South Bay.
Brenna: Angela, now, you specialize in the mental health services. So, can you give a quick little overview of that area in specific to you?
Angela: At South Bay Children’s Health Center, we actually have two mental health programs. Our whole goal is to cover the entire spectrum of children and families in the South Bay community. So, one of our main programs that we have is our Child Guidance Clinic, which is located in Old Torrance. It’s a very cute little cozy clinic, and we meet there families that qualify for Medi-Cal, so it could be low income. It could be foster youth. It could be children who’ve been adopted. So, through our Child Guidance Clinic, we really try to break down all the barriers. So, they can come to the clinic and going home, and go see them at school.
Angela: We do have a wide range of staff here. So, we have about 11 therapists who work with our kids. We also have a psychiatrist who is here to provide medication support if needed, and we have a licensed psychologist as well, who can do some psychological testing if there’s some concerns about, is this child possibly on the autism spectrum? Are there potentially some learning disabilities that are kind of impacting their academics? One of the other programs that we have does not ask about insurance, does not ask about income, and it’s called our South Bay Youth Project. It truly is a project. It’s something that’s been going on for decades, and it is very much a community partnership. So, it’s one where we partner with many of the local school districts, many of the local police departments, other community agencies. That’s the one we’re constantly writing grants. We’re finding funding. The whole hope is to never have to turn a child away if they’re in the South Bay.
Angela: One of the things that is so great about our South Bay Youth Project is it’s actually taking licensed mental health clinicians on site to the local schools. So, while they’re dealing with academics and their school counselors are dealing with class schedules and college and all of that, we really get the opportunity to kind of provide that private practice level mental health service to the kids throughout the South Bay at no cost at all to them.
Brenna: Wow. Okay. So, can I just say thank you on behalf of the South Bay communities?
Angela: Sure! Yeah. We have a great team. I will say that. I mean, I think between South Bay part of the Child Guidance, we’re upwards of 50 mental health clinicians in our area who love what they do. We love our community partners, and during a time like COVID-19, we really had to step up our game, and we’ve been able to. So, it’s kind of been in the midst of a pandemic, it made us take a look at what we’re doing, and even though we thought we had broken down the majority of barriers, we found additional ones that we had to try to break through. I feel like we’ve done a great job of doing that.
Brenna: I’d love to hear some of the creative solutions you’ve had to come up with. I mean, you already, like you said, have been working to find creative ways to break down barriers, but when you’ve got to help someone and when people are stuck at home, I mean, I can only imagine, A, that the problems are more difficult right now that a lot of communities are experiencing, and then B, your ability to reach them. So, how have you done that?
Angela: Well, we’ve been able to shift everything to telehealth. So, we’re able to have our psychiatrist have her appointments via telehealth. Our clinical psychologist has been providing psychological testing to our clients, and we’ve been doing a lot of staff consultations too. I mean, a lot of what we do, while we do the therapeutic piece with students, kids, and families, we also provide mental health consultation to the teachers, to the staff, all the way up to administration. Superintendents have been kind of asking us because this is an unknown. I would say one of the overall things that we’ve seen is it really humanized all of us. We’re all going through the same experience. Some people might be impacted in very different ways, but I think it has actually made a connection, I think, to our clients and to our family, to our clinicians in ways that I never thought were going to happen.
Angela: When you can see what’s behind someone when they’re having a Zoom call and a kid can ask, or when you’re doing something and your dog barks, so it’s really shown that we’re all just human beings trying to get through this time together, and we’ve actually seen the response to our telehealth services has been beyond our wildest dreams. If anything, we’re actually providing more services because of the flexibility. We’re able to do multiple check-ins a week with a parent who’s struggling. Now, this parent is trying to work from home, has their children at home, trying to be the teacher, the therapist, the caregiver. So, to be able to kind of provide that little relief valve and do check ins throughout the week, we’ve really seen that people have really grasped onto that. I think that’s been a success. I think we’ve all talked to the team that this is something that we’re not going to stop. Telehealth is now a new tool that we have to use.
Brenna: Who should call you, and what’s the process when they call you? If someone were watching this and, “Wow, that sounds like something that could help me or could help my kids,” how do they know if they should call and how do they know what to expect when they do call?
Angela: So, anyone can call us. We triage and assess every single person who calls. We have a very expansive network of community partners, so when you call, we’re going to ask you some questions. It might be we’re going to ask about insurance, different things like that, just to make sure you get matched up to the right program. We might ask what school your child goes to because again, we partner with certain schools. So, we’re always looking for a way to be able to serve everyone who calls us. Then, we might ask, “What’s going on? What made you call today?” just to kind of get an idea on what’s going on, what’s maybe the severity of what’s going on.
Angela: The vast majority of people who call, we’re able to provide a service. One thing South Bay Children’s Health Center has that I don’t know anybody else who is combining the dental and mental health, but it truly is serving the wellbeing of the kids and the families in this area because we’re able to address those needs. Like we’ve said, those are the unmet needs. A lot of times, they kind of overarch in certain areas. Been a lot of studies and data lately that have shown that adverse childhood experiences can impact your health throughout your life, be it your mental health, your physical health, your oral health. So, it’s a lot of that prevention, kind of early intervention piece that we do, which is what I think our dental program does very well, and so do we. The sooner that we can get involved with a child, the sooner that we can put preventative measures in place. I think that we’re finding that that is a huge impact.
Brenna: The other thing I’d like to ask too, and maybe each of you can speak to this is, what do you wish that everybody in the South Bay knew about South Bay Children’s Health Center and about mental health services specifically?
Angela: I wish people knew we were here. We want to strive to find quality services. We really try to bring that private practice level piece to everyone regardless of your income level, your insurance status, all of that. The same goes for dental. I want people to know that we’ve been around for a really long time. We have some really amazing community partners. We are constantly growing, evolving, thinking outside the box. I love it when passionate people call me and say, “Hey, I want to serve this. How do we make it happen?” Then, we try to make it happen.
Lisa: We do great work for people that want to make an investment that are looking for a volunteer opportunity that might be looking for a fun, special event. We have all that, and the money stays locally right in the South Bay community. Our primary audience is South Bay, and for families that want to make a difference, you can make a really big difference with a donation to this organization.
Brenna: I want to thank you both for joining me. This has been really, really interesting and informative. I’m so glad to know that you guys exist and that you’re doing what you do. I’d like to make sure that as many people find out about it as possible.