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PUBLIC CAN SHAPE MENTAL-HEALTH PLAN.

Byline: Eugene Tong Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - The county Department of Mental Health will host two community meetings in the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys to gather input on new state-mandated services.

The county has been working to augment services for the mentally ill after voters statewide approved Proposition 63 - the Mental Health Services Act - last year. The state is funneling about $200 million to the county to enact the first year of the three-year reform.

Comments from local residents will help officials devise the best way to implement the state's plan, which includes assistance programs, prevention services, work-force development, technology needs and facility needs, said Kirsten Deichert, a spokeswoman for the county mental health department.

``Traditionally, the big public health system only has the resources to handle a crisis,'' she said Tuesday. ``We're really looking to help people recover from mental illness with the right package of services - to proactively engage people.''

An estimated 6 percent to 11 percent of the population has a serious emotional disturbance or mental illness, Deichert said. With a population of nearly 2 million in the San Fernando/Santa Clarita region, she estimates between 120,000 and 220,000 people would require mental health services.

``We want to make sure that the Santa Clarita Valley is properly represented and gets its fair share of funding,'' said Tony Bell, spokesman for county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, whose 5th District includes north Los Angeles County. ``These meetings will allow whatever stakeholders are interested in and give them a voice.''

A community meeting in Lancaster scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at the Best Western Antelope Valley Inn, 44055 N. Sierra Highway. Another one, in Santa Clarita, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Santa Clarita Activities Center, 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway. For information, go to http://dmh.lacounty.info/stp.

Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253

eugene.tong(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 24, 2005
Words:316
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