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VIP Expands Services to Care for Most Vulnerable
Last year, as we looked at the gaps in services and our ability to intervene, we recognized that more and more children were seeking out mental health treatment who did not meet our eligibility requirements. All services at VIP are free. VIP receives funding from county and state agencies to provide mental health care to specific populations of children who qualify for Medi-Cal. For instance, all children placed in the foster care system are covered under Medi-Cal.

But more and more families were seeking out services for children who did not qualify for Medi-Cal. Primarily, these are children who have been victimized in some way, maybe by someone outside the immediate family, and are not removed from their homes by social services. Because they are not detained and put into foster care they do not automatically qualify for state sponsored health coverage. If their families cannot qualify and they lack the resources to purchase private insurance, they are left without options to help their children.

These children need help to heal from their abuse, control their post-traumatic stress, and ultimately find a positive path in life in order to break the cycle of violence. VIP did not want to keep turning children away since our expertise is so vital to their long-term success. Thankfully, last summer, the Eisner Foundation and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation recognized the importance of not denying any child in need, and chose to fund a pilot project to provide crisis intervention and mental health services to children who might otherwise go without.

The program is showing great results both for clients and for staff. VIP has been able to open its doors even wider and provide the same high level of comprehensive therapy and case management services to an even larger population. Earlier this year, the Milagro Foundation, a longtime VIP supporter, awarded us a grant earlier to help expand our specialized services for children and families dealing with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders to this same uninsured population.

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New School Based Mental Health Showing Immediate Results
For struggling families with limited transportation options, it can be a challenge to get to VIP for weekly appointments. To try and ease this burden and expand our impact on the community, staff at VIP’s Community Mental Health Center have worked out an agreement with the Department of Mental Health and the Los Angeles Unified School District to begin offering mental health services at area schools.

Instead of children trying to come into VIP after school, our therapists are traveling out to school sites and spending a portion of their day on campus seeing clients. Right now this program is being offered at four campuses in the neighborhoods around VIP – two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Staff is negotiating to expand the program soon, and the demand for services on the current campuses continues to rise.

Kristin Martin, LMFT, who supervises the school-based programs, says it is going extremely well and the children are responding very positively. Children meet with their therapists once a week, just as if they were coming to VIP. But instead of having to travel here after school, they can just walk down the hall. Children are being referred for services by school staff, and each week the children’s appointment time changes so they don’t miss the same class every time.

Martin says that by going out to the schools, therapists can better assess just how well a child is doing in their real world environment and see if they are actually making progress. In the short time the service has been offered, in addition to dealing with their trauma children are also showing improved attendance and better grades. As Martin explained, having that extra set of eyes and ears on a child makes them a little more cautious and helps them make better decisions.

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In the News: VIP Gets a Visit from Patt Morrison

VIP Executive Director, Dr. Astrid Heger, recently spent some time giving the Patt Morrison radio show a tour of VIP's clinics and talking about the services that we provide and how they can be of help and support to community development efforts. A portion of the interview was included in a documentary about the Boyle Heights community that aired on Wednesday, March 30. She also participated in a panel discussion in front of a live audience of Boyle Heights community members that aired on Friday, April 1.

You can listen to portions of all of these interviews as well as interviews with other VIP partners and collaborators in the Building a Healthy Boyle Heights initiative being funded by The California Endowment on Patt Morrison's page at the KPCC website.

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Medical Students Take to the Stage to Support VIP
For the ninth consecutive year, the branch of the American Medical Women’s Association at the USC Keck School of Medicine produced a very special two night performance of the world-renowned play The Vagina Monologues to benefit VIP. Produced by and starring already very busy medical students, this special event helped raise awareness about gender based violence and the work that VIP does to protect women and children. In addition to ticket sales, this year AMWA added a silent auction to benefit VIP.

The annual play is only one way in which the women of USC’s AMWA help VIP. Many volunteer as mentors and tutors. They coordinate special monthly arts and crafts activities for the children at the Community Mental Health Center , and organize special drives to collect much needed items for the families that come to VIP. We are very grateful for their generosity and continued commitment.

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