HEART Welcomes New Advisory Board Member

H.E.A.R.T. is pleased to announce that this summer Fran Lasker accepted an invitation to join the group's Advisory Board.

Ms. Lasker has been in private practice in Los Angeles as a psychotherapist for the past 24 years. Her training is in Family Systems therapy although she blends many different styles including Cognitive Behavioral work Mindfulness and Depth Psychotherapy. She is in the process of writing a book on teen sexuality that originated from the many tales that her two daughters, ages 20 and 17, were telling her. She has been married for 22 years.

The Board was very excited that Ms. Lasker agreed to join H.E.A.R.T. in its quest to better care for and provide support to children who have been abused or neglected and are in the foster care system. Her knowledge and passion are providing wonderful energy and creativity as we plan for the future.

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VIP Welcomes New Board Members

VIP is pleased to announce the addition of two new members to the organization’s Board of Directors – Cornelia Funke and Lauren Bender. The appointments were unanimously and enthusiastically approved at the Board’s quarterly meeting in June.

Funke-018Cornelia Funke is an internationally acclaimed bestselling German author of children’s books and young adult novels. She has written more than 40 titles including the Inkeart trilogy, the Ghosthunters series, Dragon Rider, and The Thief Lord. Her titles have made numerous appearances on the New York Times bestseller list and several have been made into movies both in Germany and in the United States. Her newest novel, Reckless, is debuting this summer and being released in dozens of languages for her fans around the world.

Cornelia is originally from Germany though she now lives in Los Angeles "in a house filled with books." Her first career was as a social worker in Germany so she is intimately acquainted with the needs of the children and families at VIP. It was her love of storytelling that moved her to take up the pen of a novelist full-time. She is also an accomplished artist who illustrates her own books.

Lauren Bender brings both medical and philanthropic expertise to the VIP Board. A native of the Pasadena area, Lauren is a Physician’s Assistant in La Cañada as well as being a dedicated child and community advocate. She studied to become a Physician Assistant at the University of Southern California where she also earned a degree in Business Administration. She has experience in many aspects of the healthcare field. She serves on the Board of the Community Center of La Cañada-Flintridge Preschool and the Executive Board of the Parish Council of Women at St. Bede church.

As a graduate student, Lauren interned with VIP Executive Director, Dr. Astrid Heger, and learned a great deal about the treatment and prevention of child abuse and the work of family advocacy centers as well as maintaining a sustainable clinic in the public healthcare system. Lauren still counts the time she spent at VIP as one of the most affecting experiences of her education.

Earlier this year, the VIP Board said goodbye to long time member and amazing supporter, Shelli Herman. Shelli, Vice President at Gary Kaplan & Associates, served on the Board of Directors for six years during which she helped create long lasting partnerships with the Junior League of Los Angeles and other dedicated benefactors. VIP thanks Shelli Herman for her service and dedication to our mission and goals.

Meet the rest of the Board of Directors of the VIP Community Mental Health Center.

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Get Your Tickets

ed-asner22What happens when an elderly couple, on the verge of losing their independence, opens their door to a young homeless couple? Mutually sharing what they know and have seems the right thing to do. Young and old can always benefit this way… so long as each heart desires it.

That's the theme of the critically acclaimed play, "Heart Desires," that Emmy Award winning actor and activist Ed Asner will be performing in a staged reading on Wednesday, April 21 at The Colony Theater in Burbank at 7 p.m. This one night only event will support the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Center (LACEAFC), a VIP partner, and the groundbreaking work it does on behalf of elder abuse victims around the Southern California area.

The Forensic Center works every day with people like, Dorothy, 88, who was in trouble. In the six years since she was widowed she had become increasingly impaired. She almost burned her house down cooking; she got lost easily; and had periods of hallucinations. She had a caregiver, but that caregiver stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her and neglected to pay her homeowner’s association dues. The caregiver was investigated and arrested, but the charges were dropped due to the lack of a professional medical or neuropsychological evaluation of the client’s capacity to make financial decisions. Three years later, the same person again swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Dorothy and racked up thousands of dollars in debt in her name.

Dorothy’s case is just one example of the over 25,000 reports of elder abuse made in Los Angeles alone. The Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center brings together professionals from multiple disciplines to help these victims as a team - a geriatrician; neuropsychologist; District Attorney; City Attorney; law enforcement; Adult Protective Services; GENESIS mental health services; Office of the Public Guardian, victim advocates; Bet Tzedek Legal Services; and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. The team provides expert and comprehensive case examination, documentation and consultation. As Forensic Center Director, Dr. Diana Schneider, explains this collaborative approach is not only providing victims with better care but also invigorating all of the members of the team. “The networking has made it so much easier to protect elders,” Schneider says.

In the four years since its launch, the Forensic Center has reviewed over 450 cases of elder and dependent adult abuse, and 36 cases have been successfully prosecuted through the District Attorney’s Office. The Forensic Center is currently working on Dorothy’s case trying to ensure her health and safety and protect her from further financial abuse.

The Forensic Center is a nonprofit entity that provides all services free of charge, so it needs support in order to continue to provide evaluations and interventions like the one given to Dorothy in order to reach more elders and dependent adults in need. “Heart Desires” was penned by Christine Rosensteel, a local playwright with a Master of Professional Writing degree from the of Southern California. “Heart Desires” was first produced at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena to wonderful reviews, and VIP and LACEAFC are thrilled to be bringing it to life again for one night only. Ms. Rosensteel studied playwriting at Yale University and Pembroke College of Cambridge University, England. She is a Program Planner for Los Angeles County Adult Protective Services and a member of the LACEAFC Team.

Tickets are on sale now! Showtime is 7 pm. with a reception to follow. General Admission seating is $25. The Colony Theater is located at 555 North Third Street, Burbank, CA 91502. To purchase tickets, call VIP at (323) 226-2097, or email Erica Blodgett at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

For more information about the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center, visit their website or call (323) 226-1470.

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Forensic Urgent Care Center Opens Doors

As the year draws to an end, VIP is pleased to announce that the long-awaited Forensic Urgent Care Center is now open to children, seniors and families in need. This marks the end of a multi-year campaign to bring all of the VIP medical services and clinics together under one roof within the outpatient department at LAC+USC Medical Center with triple the space for patient care and support services, new equipment, and a renewed commitment to intervening to protect every child, teen, adult and senior from interpersonal family violence, child abuse and sexual assualt.

Located on the third floor of the Medical Center's Outpatient Tower, the Forensic Urgent Care Center is home to the Community-Based Assessment and Treatment Center (CATC), the Sexual Assault Center, the Adult Protection Team/Geriatric Clinic, and the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders subspecialty clinic. The Center has triple the exam rooms for medical/forensic exams of suspected abuse and assault victims and for ongoing medical care of children under Department of Children and Family Services supervision. The Adult Protection Team - which sees elder and dependent adults - has doubled its exam and waiting room space. The Sexual Assualt Center has specially designed exams rooms with private showers and changing areas for victims. And all of the clinics now have offices for integrating mental health services, crisis intervention, and support services for patients and families.

This integration and expansion means that VIP will be better equipped to serve the steadily increasing number of individuals coming through our doors. CATC sees approximately 1,000 children each month, and is open 24 hours a day to any law enforcement or social service worker who might know of a child that they suspect has been abused or neglected. The doctors and nurse practitioners on staff at CATC are trained in forensic exams to determine the nature of a child's injuries and if they have been assaulted or abused and to offer the best level of care to heal and protect the child in the future.

The maintenance and operations of the new Center are part of the unique public-private partnership VIP has with the County of Los Angeles Department of Health Services to provide services to victims through public entitlement funding. Funds for this phase of renovation were raised by VIP through private sources including foundations, corporations and individuals. VIP is particularly grateful to the Ahmanson Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, the Rose Hills Foundation, and the Rubin Family Foundation for their very generous support in helping reach the $1 million goal set for this capital campaign two years ago. Many others contributed to the effort and their gifts will be recognized in the clinic and their dedication will be a benefit to children for decades to come.

The renovation work has brought new color and life to a previously cold and generic space, a change that will promote healing and security for children and seniors who have been traumatized. The project has incorporated a significant amount of reclaimed and recycled materials making the clinic more fiscally and environmentally responsible.

VIP will hold a formal Grand Opening celebration for the Forensic Urgent Care Center in the Spring 2010 when all the final touches have been put in place on this wonderful new space - the realization of a long time dream for VIP and Executive Director Dr. Astrid Heger. In the meantime, the doors are open and VIP stands poised to do all it can to protect anyone who fears for their safety at the hands of someone they should be able to trust.

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