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The Long and Winding Road to Mental Health Care for Your Kid

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For several months last spring and summer, my teen daughter, Caroline, experienced near-daily bouts of depression and debilitating panic attacks. During those episodes, she became extremely agitated, sobbing uncontrollably and aggressively rebuffing my attempts to comfort or reason with her.

My daughter was in a dark place, and I was worried.

But I have excellent health insurance, and I thought that would help me find a good therapist.

I dutifully dialed everyone on my health plan’s list. Some of them even called me back — only to say they weren’t taking new patients, or couldn’t see Caroline for three months, or didn’t have the training to match her symptoms.

I ultimately found a great therapist who isn’t in my health plan’s network — and after many months of weekly sessions, Caroline is doing much better.

I’m luckier than most parents, because my health plan covers a significant portion of Caroline’s out-of-network therapy. I pay only $45 per session, while some parents shell out north of $200 every week.

Think about how perverse this is. Mental health professionals say that with children, early intervention is crucial to avoid more severe and costly problems later on. Yet even parents with good insurance struggle to find care for their children.

The U.S. faces a growing shortage of mental health professionals trained to work with young people — at a time when depression and anxiety are on the rise. Suicide was the No. 2 cause of death for children and young adults from age 10 to 24 in 2017, after accidents.

There is only one practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist in the U.S. for about every 1,800 children who need one, according to data from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Not only is it hard to get appointments with psychiatrists and therapists, but the ones who are available often don’t accept insurance.

“This country currently lacks the capacity to provide the mental health support that young people need,” says Dr. Steven Adelsheim, director of the Stanford University psychiatry department’s Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Alison Bloeser, of Seal Beach, Calif., has struggled for nearly a decade to find effective care for her now 15-year old son’s obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. In that time, Bloeser says, she has taken him to more than 20 therapists and had him on medication — spending more than $20,000 along the way.

“We have a growing number of young people in this country crying out for help at a young age,” Bloeser says. “Why are we not addressing that full force?”

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution because people’s financial and personal situations vary widely.

So let me begin with tips for all parents, even those with skimpy insurance or none at all. A good place to start is the pediatrician’s office — whether it’s a private practice or a low-cost community clinic.

“When your children reach adolescence, you should be asking their pediatricians to screen for both anxiety and depression,” advises Dr. Bhavana Arora, chief medical officer of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Health Network.

If your finances are constrained, try a community health clinic that offers mental health services regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

For instance, Los Angeles-based AltaMed (www.altamed.org) has 12 clinics in L.A. and Orange counties where children and teens with mild to moderate mental health disorders can get short-term therapy. Medi-Cal picks up the tab for most of those kids. For kids not on Medi-Cal, the clinics charge on a sliding scale.

One way to find a community clinic near you is to search https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/.

Your child’s school is another place to seek help.

Faith-based organizations are increasingly engaged in mental health care. Saddleback Church, with numerous locations around Southern California, offers support groups and counseling. Jewish Family Service agencies nationwide provide counseling on a sliding scale. Muslims can try the Khalil Center, which has branches in Chicago, L.A., the San Francisco Bay Area, New York and Toronto.

If you, like me, have insurance and find a good therapist who is not in your network, try to make it work — if you can possibly afford it.

Start by checking whether you have coverage for out-of-network providers. If not, or if it’s not enough, ask if your health plan is willing to treat the therapist as an in-network provider just for your child — an arrangement known as a single-case agreement.

The therapist likely will have to agree to a lower payment.

For many parents, the most productive thing is meeting others who are experiencing similar problems.

If you need help and peer support, check with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It offers a six-week course, “NAMI Basics,” which educates parents and puts them in touch with others in the same boat. Go to www.nami.org to find the chapter in your area.

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Black History

Former Slave Bridget “Biddy” Mason, Los Angeles Real Estate Mogul

After 10 years of freedom, working hard and saving her money, Bridget “Biddy” Mason (1818–1891), in 1866, purchased two lots on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which was a small pueblo at the time. She paid $250 for the Spring Street property; the first piece of land Mason owned. This is said to have been a “remarkable feat for a woman having spent the first 37 years of her life enslaved.” But she wouldn’t settle for it being the last. She would become a savvy businesswoman.

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Bridget ‘Biddy’ Mason had made her living as a nurse and midwife. Public domain photo.
Bridget ‘Biddy’ Mason had made her living as a nurse and midwife. Public domain photo.

By Tamara Shiloh

The state of California joined the Union in 1850 as a free state. But after spending five years enslaved there, Bridget “Biddy” Mason (1818–1891) challenged her owner, Robert Smith, for her freedom.

In 1856, a Los Angeles district judge approved Mason’s petition, a ruling that freed Mason and 13 members of her family. She then made Los Angeles her home.

Not much is known about Mason’s earlier life. She was born into slavery, likely in Georgia. She was owned by slaveholders in Georgia and South Carolina before being returned to Mississippi where, as a young adult, she was enslaved in the Smith home. She cared for Smith’s sickly wife and the couple’s children, becoming a nurse and midwife, work she continued throughout most of her life.

After becoming free, Mason met John Griffin, a white Southern doctor who was impressed with her midwife and nursing skills. She began working for him, delivering hundreds of babies in Los Angeles. In her medicine bag, she carried the tools of her trade and the papers the judge had given her affirming that she was free.

After 10 years of freedom, working hard and saving her money, Mason, in 1866, purchased two lots on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which was a small pueblo at the time. She paid $250 for the Spring Street property; the first piece of land Mason owned. This is said to have been a “remarkable feat for a woman having spent the first 37 years of her life enslaved.” But she wouldn’t settle for it being the last. She would become a savvy businesswoman.

In 1884, Mason sold the north half of her first property for $1,500. On the other half, she built a two-story brick building for rentals. That same year she sold another lot for $2,800. She also helped her family buy properties around the city. In 1885, she deeded a portion of the Spring Street property to her grandsons. She signed the deed with an X because she had never learned to read or write.

Mason organized what is now the oldest African American church in Los Angeles: First A.M.E. Church. She used her wealth to give back to and support the entire community, donating to numerous charities, feeding and sheltering the poor, visiting prisoners, and was instrumental in founding an elementary school for Black children.

At the time of her death in 1891, Mason had amassed a fortune of $300,000 (approximately $6 million today), making her the “richest colored woman west of the Mississippi.” She was buried in an unmarked grave in Evergreen Cemetery.

In 1988, the mayor of Los Angeles and members of the church she founded held a ceremony, during which time her grave was marked with a tombstone. More importantly, Mason left a legacy of perseverance, compassion, and triumph.

Encourage young readers to learn more about this real-life champion for civil rights who was born into slavery in Arisa White, Laura Atkins and Laura Freeman’s “Biddy Mason Speaks Up.”

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Bay Area

De La Fuente Runs for Mayor

De La Fuente said he “will not tolerate homeless encampments where violence and drug abuse are rampant.” These encroachers are disrespecting our neighborhoods, our schools, our businesses, our residents, taking over our parks and defacing our city. He said the residents and businesses in our low-income flatland neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected by these encampments, and they deserve better. In collaboration with the county, we will serve our homeless residents who need it most, but not at the expense of other residents and businesses in our city.”

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Photo Caption: Ignacio De La Fuente

By Paul Cobb and news services

Ignacio De La Fuente, the former President of the Oakland City Council for 11 years, says he will run for mayor to rescue the city from its deep troubles.

He said he is returning to political leadership after a 10-year absence. Claiming that he is “sick and tired of what’s happening to our city,” and he can’t just stand by and witness “the city that I love become a place where people are afraid to walk the streets, to take their children to parks, to go out to dinner with their families or to park their cars on the street. I cannot let our city continue [to] be a place where seniors are assaulted and robbed in broad daylight, a place where illegal side-shows are constant throughout the city and a place where children are being shot and killed! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Oakland is not a dumping ground, and it is time to take action!”

He, along with the support of his former council colleague Nate Miley, who is now serving as an Alameda County Supervisor, and who is sponsoring a fundraiser for De La Fuente, has boldly declared that he will “do whatever it takes to increase the number of police officers, but I will give them the resources that they need to help them do their job, but above all, I will provide them the back up and political support that they need and deserve to perform their job for our residents and for our businesses.”

He said he “will not tolerate homeless encampments where violence and drug abuse are rampant.” These encroachers are disrespecting our neighborhoods, our schools, our businesses, our residents, taking over our parks and defacing our city. De La Fuente said the residents and businesses in our low-income flatland neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected by these encampments, and they deserve better. In collaboration with the county, we will serve our homeless residents who need it most, but not at the expense of other residents and businesses in our city.”

He wants to change the focus and emphasis of how the city spends its infrastructure money on what is truly needed by “repairing potholes, taking back and beautifying our parks, fixing our sewers and providing robust programming for our recreation centers and libraries to enrich the lives of our kids and seniors.”

In a characteristic fearless, colorful style that he achieved a no-nonsense reputation De La Fuente announced “The job of mayor is not for the faint of heart! Oakland is a great city that needs a mayor with the political backbone and experience to make the tough decisions to get this city back on track!

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California Black Media

Six Questions for State Controller Candidate Ron Galperin

As Controller of California’s largest city since 2013, Galperin has led audits that uncovered billions of spending that he deemed ineffective and launched a website that tracks city spending. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has endorsed Galperin. So have six of the city’s councilmembers, 16 current state legislators and nine members of California’s delegation to the U.S. Congress.

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Ron Galperin. Facebook photo.
Ron Galperin. Facebook photo.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

Attorney, businessman and Controller of Los Angeles Ron Galperin (RG) is a Democrat running for California State Controller.

The son of immigrants — and a Holocaust survivor — Galperin is also the first LGBTQ+ person elected to citywide office in Los Angeles.

As Controller of California’s largest city since 2013, Galperin has led audits that uncovered billions of spending that he deemed ineffective and launched a website that tracks city spending.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has endorsed Galperin. So have six of the city’s councilmembers, 16 current state legislators and nine members of California’s delegation to the U.S. Congress.

Galperin recently told California Black Media (CBM) about how his experience prepares him to be Controller and his priorities would be if he is elected to the job.

CBM: From your perspective, what is the State Controller’s main function?

RG: The Controller is the chief fiscal officer of the fifth-largest economy in the world. In addition to serving as the state’s finance watchdog, the Controller is responsible for responsibly disbursing the state’s financial resources, independently auditing government agencies that spend state funds, issuing financial reports, and administering the payroll system of state employees.

The Controller also serves on more than six dozen boards and commissions, including the California Health Facilities Financing Authority, State Lands Commission, California State Teachers’ Retirement System, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board, and more.

CBM: Why are you running for Controller?

As the Chief Financial Officer and elected watchdog of the nation’s second-biggest city, I have been on the forefront of bringing unprecedented transparency, innovation and accountability to how public dollars are spent – putting every city expenditure and salary online – and I have a proven track record of government reform and challenging the status quo.

I’ve transformed the role of the Controller in Los Angeles, launching independent, hard-hitting audits – rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse; exposing misspent funds to address homelessness.

My reports have called for reforms on infrastructure, housing, homeless spending, climate change policy and more. And, my office and I have been recognized internationally for introducing open data, dashboards, metrics, mapping and other tools to make government more accountable.

With the fifth-largest economy in the world and an annual budget of more than $250 billion, California needs a Controller with the experience and credibility to safeguard the people’s dollars – and to strengthen the financial health of all Californians.

CBM: Do you feel being a Democrat is an advantage or disadvantage?

RG: I’ve been a Democrat ever since I started voting at age 18. I’m proud to serve on the Democratic National Committee and as an executive officer of Democratic Municipal Officials. I’m also proud of our party’s commitment to equity, diversity, justice. I am grateful we live in the state of California with a strong base of Democratic voters who believe that diversity and equity are our strength.

CBM: What experience do you bring to this position?

I have the record and experience doing the job of Controller – unlike any other candidate.

Voters want someone for a job like Controller in whom they can have confidence to oversee the finances of our vast state. They also want someone who has stood with our friends in labor, who has taken on corruption at City Hall, and who has fought to improve the livability of our communities. I am the only candidate with the experience to do this job on day one.

CBM: If you win, what will be your first priority?

RG: I have multiple priorities, but my top three would be:

  • Transparency and Accountability: As City Controller, I have served as the watchdog for Los Angeles, making sure public dollars are spent efficiently and effectively. I will do the same for all of California.
  • Addressing Homelessness and Housing: The issues of housing and homelessness are interconnected, and there are no issues more pressing or more daunting. We cannot accept more of the status quo. When it comes to both issues, audits and reports from my office have shown that Los Angeles is spending billions of dollars directly and indirectly to solve these issues, and we’re getting inadequate results.
  • Promoting Equity and Opportunity: We have a long way to go to ensure economic and racial justice for people of color in California. As City Controller, I produced the LA Equity Index, a first-of-its-kind online mapping tool to illustrate the level of equity and opportunity in each neighborhood of Los Angeles so that city leaders and all residents have a data-driven understanding of community needs throughout Los Angeles.

I’ve also examined inequities that exist in City government. As City Controller, I found that people of color and women were being paid significantly less than their white/male counterparts. My maps, data stories and reports have been adopted by policy makers and communities throughout L.A.

CBM: A lot of Black and Brown people work for state government. What is your view on unfunded pension liabilities?

RG: One of the more crucial roles of the State Controller is as an ex-officio member of the CalPERS and CALSTRS boards. It is crucial that we both keep our commitments to our retirees and government workers, and that the pension systems be solvent and properly funded. We need to be both realistic about assumed rates of return and to invest strategically and safely to yield the best returns.

CBM: How would you describe your leadership style? And how does that match with the demands of being the State Controller?

RG: I like to lead by example, with an unwavering commitment to championing transparency, innovation, and diversity.

Too often, government gets labeled as slow and inefficient. It can be true at times, but I want to show people that government innovation is not only possible, but necessary to create a better organization and a better society.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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