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Clinical Services

World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day is highlighted by Clinical Services

On October 10th, IRL celebrated World Mental Health Day through a social media campaign. The World Health Organization states that the goal of World Mental Health Day is to raise mental health awareness and empower each of us to contribute to ensure people living with mental health vulnerabilities can live better lives with dignity.

But what is Mental Health?

US Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines mental health as a stage of your emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and it affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

IRL’s own Abel V. sat down with IRL’s Sr. Program Director of Clinical Services, Dr. Janet Lester to highlight some resources for mental health services and to learn more about IRL’s Clinical Services program.

First and foremost, Dr. Lester explained that getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and talking to others are great ways to improve your mental health daily.  In addition, Dr. Lester shared that there are 24/7 hotlines available to provide outreach and services to those in need.

  • Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health’s hotline number is 800-854-7771 and they can provide resources for adult mental health services.
  • National Suicide Prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 is based staffed by Didi Hirsch in Los Angeles and they are experts at helping someone when they are feeling down or have lost hope.
  • Substance abuse service help line is 844-804-7500.

Abel – How long have you been working at IRL?

Janet – I have been at this program for 3 years. And previously I worked at Almansor Academy back in 1989 and I also worked at Total Education Solutions in the year 2000. So, this is my third time around. Glad to be back.

A – What’s your position and what do you do for IRL?

J – I am a Senior Director for the Clinical Services program here at the Institute for the Redesign of Learning and also known as Almansor Clinical Services for our community members.

A – How many people do you serve?

J – So right now we serve about 1,156 clients – about 956 of those are out in the field or at a one of 189 schools throughout Los Angeles and then the rest of them are students from Almansor Academy and Westmoreland Academy. However, pre-Covid, we were serving approximately 1,500 clients.

A – How does your program operates?

Janet – Our program provides a full array of mental health services for children, youth, and adults aged 0-21. A therapist will engage and complete an intake with the child/youth and parent/caregiver to complete a full assessment and develop a treatment plan. Services may include: Individual Therapy, Family Therapy, Case Management, Psychiatric Evaluation, and Medication Support Services, if needed.

A – How does your staff prepare to work in the field?

J – Well, we have a lot of training. So, when a staff starts here, they not only receive Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy training, they also get adapting and practices training. So, the first year of working here, they would get certified in one or both of those programs. We also have staff who receive training not only in how to engage clients, but also how to document the good work they’re doing. So, when a staff first starts, they get a couple of days of just training about the program, who we serve, and how to document their work on the electronic mental health record software.

A – Based on your experience, is there an ethnicity that needs more help than others?

J – I would say that In Los Angeles, we have underserved communities and they have less access to care. So here, at our program, we serve Medi-Cal clients that may have mental health vulnerabilities and who need support. I would say 50% of our clients fall into a global Hispanic category, but there are still a lot of categories within that [broad category] for how people identify. We also have African American communities who need support. But because we also serve Alhambra and Monterey Park, we also support a diverse Asian community.

A – What kind of target population do you serve?

J – The target population we serve is really 0-21- year-olds. We serve early education children who may have behaviors that parents are saying “Hey, we need help with…” or “I’m not really sure what my child is saying with this behavior.”  We work with children/youth ages 6 – 21 that again may start with having behaviors in the classroom or difficulty managing their emotions, so we work with these children as well. We also do family work with the parents to help them really understand developmental processes with their children, how they can help provide structure through the day, and how they can listen to children’s worries and concerns when they’re upset.

A – What are the service areas supported by the program?

J – We serve families in a very large area… Service Plan Area 3, which starts here in Pasadena and goes all the way to the San Bernardino County line and Service Plan Area 7, which starts below Monterey Park and goes all the way almost to Long Beach. We also support 189 schools in this area.

A – How do people get referred to your program?

J – Parents can call our number and make a referral for their child/youth. Teachers at some of the schools that we work closely with, will put in a referral in collaboration with the parents. And then we also have hospitals that will call us when clients are getting discharged from the hospital if they aren’t connected to a community provider.

We also have specialized foster care so we do mental health assessments when children may be removed from their home by Department of Children and Family Services.  We also receive referrals from doctors in the community and Department of Mental Health also makes referrals.  

A – How did COVID-19 impact your program and services in the community?

J – When COVID-19 started we immediately moved over to Telehealth on Zoom, but during that time and even currently, we still continue to provide services in the field with families. So, COVID-19 presented challenges for us because first, we had to learn how to use the Telehealth platform, and then we had to create safe environments, not only for our staff, but also for our clients.

When we started wearing masks, we made sure we were doing six feet distancing, we made sure we were washing our hands or using hand sanitizer. We still provide services by Telehealth, as needed. We have clients that come to the clinics if they need to be seen by the psychiatrist for medication support or we have staff that go to the schools or to a client’s home. We do our best to meet the family’s need.

A – Have you experienced an increase in any mental health issues among your clients since the beginning of the pandemic?

J – Yes, we have seen an increase in mental health issues with everybody, including our staff. When COVID began, we knew that people had to deal with the unknowns of so many things related to the pandemic – transmission, prevention, are we going to be safe, etc. Parents questioned sending their children to school or just visiting their family members and friends. All this escalated the levels of anxiety among all of us. And not knowing when or how we were going to be able to have our regular activities back, definitely added to the increase in mental health issues among all of us.

A – Before we finish, is there anything that you would like to add?

J – I just want to reiterate again that wellness is so important and that one of the ways we have to prevent issues or try to stay mentally healthier is getting enough sleep, eating healthy, getting physical activity and connecting to others. Reach out to friends and family. And you know what? Sometimes, even by doing all of that, on may still experience feeling down, feeling tired and not really knowing what’s going on… so they need to ask for help from their doctor, a community resource, or one of the hotline numbers.

If you have not been connecting with others, not eating right and or exercising, and are experiencing feelings of hopelessness and/or a loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy, please reach out to and connect with a trusted friend or relative. 


Please also remember to seek professional help if you need it. The ACCESS line at the Department of Mental Health is a 24/7 line that can provide referrals for adults and children as well as provide emotional support. As Dr. Sherin at the Department of Mental Health says “None of us are well until all of us are well”.

Visit us at for more information on our Mental Health/Clinical Services.