County Breaks Ground On New Mental Health and Wellness Center

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

LINCOLN HEIGHTS – Jessie Cho for years suffered from depression, abusing drugs until she finally got help at the Northeast Mental Health Center in Highland Park. She now hopes others will get the treatment they need when a new mental health center opens in Lincoln Heights.

“I wanted to die, I felt I was of no use,” she tearfully recalled last week during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new county facility scheduled to open in November 2018.

Cho credits the mental health counseling services and treatment she received for turning her life around. For the first time in a long time, she felt like she was not alone.

Inspired to pay it forward, Cho began volunteering at the mental health center and eventually trained to become a community health worker. She now helps guide others to the appropriate services for his or her situation.

“I learned to balance my work and give myself self-love and self care,” she said about her recovery.

A groundbreaking was held in Lincoln Heights last week for the future site of the Northeast Mental Health Center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A groundbreaking was held in Lincoln Heights last week for the future site of the Northeast Mental Health Center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The soon-to-be constructed 47,330 square-foot mixed-retail and medical office project will be located on the 3300 block of North Broadway, and will house the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Northeast Mental Health and Wellness Centers.

Outpatient services will include crisis resolution assistance and wellness treatment. Clients will also be able to receive medical services at the same location.

“This facility is something that is much-needed” in the area, said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis at the event. “This will bring county services to a community that desperately needs them.”

Located just east of Chinatown and south of Cypress Park, Lincoln Heights is a neighborhood in transition. Latinos are about 70 percent of the population, with Asians being the next largest group at about 36 percent and growing. The median household income is about $36,000 a year, lower than many other areas of the county.

Like many nearby areas, the number of homeless has been on the rise at the same time housing prices are trending upward as people with higher incomes priced out of nearby neighborhoods like Echo Park, Highland Park, and the Downtown Arts District look for more affordable homes.

The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health is the largest county-run mental health department in the country. On average, more than 250,000 county residents receive services every year, according to the department.

Although Lincoln Heights is also home to County USC Hospital and LAC-USC Medical Center and Health Sciences Campus, residents and mental health advocates in East and Northeast L.A. have long complained of a lack of mental services in the area.

Noting that deep cuts nationally to health care are on the horizon, Solis said it’s “important for a project like this to get done.”

The facility will be built on a lot that has been vacant for years, despite a one-time plan to build a banquet hall there. Local residents, citing its close proximity to Lincoln High School and other schools, objected to the banquet facility because liquor would be sold.

Arman Gabay, co-founder of the Charles Company – the project developer – was overcome with emotion last week as he told the story of how the idea to build the medical office building in Lincoln Heights finally took root.

The medical and mental health facility –which will include retail space on the ground level –is the first major development the area in years.

When the Rose Eye Medical Group moved from the location, it became an “eyesore,” Steven Kasten of Steven Kasten Reality told EGP.

The building was torn down and the lot has been vacant for over a decade, recalled Kasten, whose company owns and manages many properties in the area.

Kasten, former president of the Lincoln Heights Chamber of Commerce, says he hopes the new development will be a catalyst for more quality development in the area.

“Most people didn’t want to invest in Lincoln Heights,” he told EGP Tuesday. But now “all the ingredients are right for development.”

The project is also expected to generate 180 jobs.

“This is a partnership between the community, stakeholders, City of Los Angeles and the County,” Gene Detchemendy of the Charles Company explained.

“It’s thinking outside the box,” agreed Solis who called the partnership a “village approach.”

Cho, who now works at the same center in Highland Park where she received treatment, attributes her speedy recovery to the services she received at the county-run mental health facility.

She expects the new Lincoln Heights center will provide the community with a nurturing place for mental health and recovery.

“They literally saved my life,” she said, as she stood at the future site of the mental health center where she will soon be helping others. “I feel I have come full circle.”


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