On Wednesday, a much-needed drop-in center opened in Los Angeles that aims to help transition-age youth (TAY) between 16 and 25-years-old move into adulthood with confidence and independence, with the help of trauma-informed mental health care, as well as employment and life-skills services, and other supports.
The new Avis and Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center (LLC) will operate under the LA Child Guidance Clinic, a well-known holistic mental health care provider for kids and young adults in South LA.
There are approximately 1.4 million young people between the ages of 16 and 25 in Los Angeles County. Research indicates that approximately 20 percent of transition-age youth will experience a mental health problem, but only 11 percent will access the services they need to address their mental health. And while most kids in Los Angeles will successfully progress from childhood into adulthood, a small but significant subset of youth will not make the transition successfully, often due to issues like housing and job insecurity, trauma, abuse, substance use, and contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems or the foster care system.
Fourteen percent of all homeless people in LA County are transition-age youth, for example. TAY in South Los Angeles have experienced especially “disproportionate levels of trauma, foster care placement, homelessness and/or mental health needs,” said Supe. Ridley-Thomas. “We simply do not have enough loving, caring stable families for the number of children who need homes. Where do these children go when they’ve had an argument with another child in their group home? Or when their extended family members reject them for their gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The LLC intends to serve as a refuge where youth who are experiencing the challenges of young adulthood can drop in and feel cared for and safe.
Through the center, the clinic seeks to nurture hope and offer “a brighter future for our youth and young adults,” said Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic President and CEO Charlene Dimas-Peinado. “It’s also the right time for us to focus our attention on the social and environmental concerns impacting them and make a meaningful difference.”
Avis Ridley-Thomas, one of the center’s two namesakes, served for 22 years as the former director of the dispute resolution program within the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, and is now the executive director of Community Partners’ Days of Dialogue project, co-director of the Institute for Nonviolence in Los Angeles. and lectures at UCLA. Her husband, Mark Ridley-Thomas, has served as a lawmaker in both the California Senate and Assembly, and is currently an LA County Supervisor. The Ridley-Thomases have championed violence prevention efforts and criminal justice reforms, and have worked for decades to build up LA communities and to empower youth and families. (They have worked with the LA Child Guidance Clinic since 2003.)
“Avis and I are honored, beyond measure, to be the namesakes of the new Life Learning Center,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “These are our young people and they deserve to be lifted up and supported. We believe this reimagined center will be a life-changing and welcome addition to this community.”
Transition-age youth will be able to access culturally sensitive individual and group mental health services and even psychiatric services at the center.
LLC staff will help youth seek (and maintain) employment through job seeking skills classes, interview training, and job preparation classes, among other supports.
Teens and young adults will also benefit from “community-based resiliency-focused experiences to enhance participants’ self-sufficiency or self-regulation,” according to the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic. These classes will cover social and coping skills, budgeting, living arrangement stability, and day-to-day skills like grocery shopping.
Additionally, the center will offer individual and group substance use counseling.
Beyond the myriad classes and services, LLC staff will help kids with other basic needs like transportation, securing food and other supplies, medication, and obtaining financial and health benefits for those who are eligible.
The 10,000 square foot LLC is funded by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the LA County Department of Mental Health, and is located at 5054 South Vermont Avenue, in LA.
Image by OnyxArchitects, digital rendering of the Avis and Mark Ridley-Thomas Life Learning Center.