An Exciting Program for Achievement



Photos are here

Feb. 2, 2017
Women’s City Club

Laurel Bear is an Assistant Superintendent in the Alhambra Unified School District. Years ago she created a project of mental health services in an exemplary school-based program, which engages parents, local police, and now addresses homelessness. The need for this program was based upon her previous experiences as a high school teacher, and dean and principal of a continuation high school. In 2016, she was honored as Woman of the Year by recently retired State Senator and LWV-PA member Carol Liu, who chaired the California Senate Education Committee.

Phlunte Riddle’s newly earned doctorate, with its emphasis in behavior analysis, comes after her retirement from twenty-nine years of experiences within the Pasadena Police Department. As a lieutenant, she conducted the cutting edge program HOPE, Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation. She describes this as a compassionate collaboration of police and mental health providers. Currently, she is Assemblyman Chris Holden’s Senior Field Representative, working with mental health legislation. On February 2, we will learn the direction of this legislation, and how mental health issues, including adults and disabled, are being served in our larger communities.

Dr. Bear:

More than sixty members of the League attended our February breakfast meeting to hear Dr. Laura Bear, Assistant Superintendent of the Alhambra Unified School District, describe “Gateway to Success,” a highly successful and honored program. Dr. Bear described this program as a “true school-community partnership, including Alhambra police and fire departments,” which sends a message to the community’s children that “I will be safe.”

The Alhambra community truly believes that they can be heroes to the children, that they will be heroes by engaging children and families. The program provides teacher wellness training and fosters the citywide belief that “We can all be heroes” in the lives of the children. The belief of the community is that “We all have a hand in every child’s success.” Peers are recognized as being even more important to students than their families, so training extends to students as well. Dr. Bear stated “We are always asking how we can be different? We all have a hand in every child’s success. “Our kids need more than twenty-five reliable adults in each child’s life.” It’s a big job.

The stigma that is attached with mental health issues is removed. The program understands that we are all dealing with mental health issues daily. “We know that kids who need the loving the most will ask for love in the most unloving ways.” So Dr. Bear states we have to say “How are you doing today?” The program calls parents to say “school is not the same without Johnnie today” and not to say “Why isn’t your child in school today?” Dr. Bear showed a video of the story of Angel Jiminez. He is a former Alhambra student who was charged with bringing a knife to a school dance. Typically, this brings expulsion. Instead, a school- and communitywide effort was made to guide him through the restitution process. He wrote an apology to the school, he responded to tutoring and school support to bring him back on track. A lot of adults supported Angel, and today he is entering the Sheriff’s Academy. He was an example of how, with Gateways to Success, the community could work together to provide juvenile diversion methods that work.

Dr. Bear went on to say that “25 percent of four year olds have been impacted by trauma. Many are not able to manage their life.” She described Alhambra as a “lab of 14,000 kids.” The Alhambra continuation school looks beyond punishment to provide strategies to help kids; they provide hope, food, and continuous support. Alhambra has had in place a Suicide Prevention policy for the past eleven years. They also have threat assessment, crisis response training, a parent wellness series, parent engagement, and mental health awareness. They recruit parents, called the Blue Chairs Meeting, where parents come with problems in their lives to discuss how to cope with these problems. The program is also working with homeless children, engaging parents in their Golden Bell Parent University, and demonstrating the power of building relationships with parents and children.

This award winning program— under the direction of an outstanding administrator and the continuing district commitment to provide funds—also demonstrates success in improving student achievement. It is a meaningful collaboration built over time and constructed out of a communitywide dedication to reaching all students.

Dr. Phlunte Riddle:

Dr. Riddle, Senior Field Representative for Representative Chris Holden, Assembly District 41, spoke after Dr. Bear. She described her broad range of current responsibilities.
Dr. Riddle first described the Pasadena Police Department’s Hope Team of three officers and a mental health practitioner. Approximately 51 percent of the calls for police services are related to mental health issues. This team doesn’t respond to regular services. It does work with cases involving the mentally ill. We know that mentally ill can be very strong, and these teams require specialized training. Luckily the state now provides training which is mandatory for the police. Also a relatively new partnership with the Health Department sees to it that services are provided.

Dr. Riddle participated in the recent outreach for counting homeless people. The January night she was out, the temperature dropped to 34 degrees. Families were found living in cars with trash bags covering the car windows. This experience underlines how important this issue of affordable housing is. A study by Steven Wallace of UCLA discovered that placing homeless in long-term housing reduced mental health issues by 75 percent. In one housing success story, Pasadena’s YWCA on Holly Street used to be one of the worst places to go into but now it is sustainable housing for the homeless.

Dr. Riddle also discussed the Lanterman Act, which deals with the issue of the developmental disabilities. However, it takes providers—like the Salvation Army—to care for the homeless. Providers are not being compensated at the level necessary to continue those services. Assemblyman Holden committed to seek additional funding for these providers. Currently 280,000 people are dependent on Regional Centers for their care. Those providers are critical components of the system, and AB279, authored by Holden, is working its way through the Assembly. Dr. Riddle encouraged voters to call and write letters to state senators and assemblypersons urging the passing of AB279 to increase funding for and to avoid a mass exodus of these providers.

—Greta Pruitt

Program Planning 2017


The League is a truly grassroots organization that sets its agenda through the Program Planning process. As members, this is our chance to help choose what we want California’s and the Pasadena Area League’s future to be.

New members, this is an opportunity to learn more and get involved in how the League decides on focus and priorities. Longtime members, this is a signature activity of the League and a way to contribute to focus on the issues you are passionate about.

Join us on January 12, when we’ll be discussing League policy and strategy at the state and local level. The state League has requested a different process from past years: instead of reviewing state positions, we’re being asked to consider where the League should focus its energy over the next two years? What are the issues of concern to us here in the Pasadena Area? Where is there a need for legislative activity and other advocacy, both in Sacramento and in our city or county?

What will our League do to participate in the LWVUS Campaign to Make Democracy Work? What issues should we address? Should we focus on community education? What coalitions should we be part of? What local government policies or procedures do not meet our standards for transparency? Do we need a new or updated study on a local problem?
This is your opportunity to make your voice heard. Join us!

Thursday, January 12
Women’s City Club