Dr. Ira Lesser, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance and Professor and vice chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the Geffen School of Medicine, was a featured speaker on a panel of medical professionals at a State Assembly Joint Hearing on July 29. The Joint Hearing, which took place at the Southern Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, was co-hosted by the chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Mental and Behavioral Health, Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, and the chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Justice Reinvestment, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Sr. Both Assemblymembers represent districts in the greater Los Angeles area.
State Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Culver City; second from left) offers opening remarks as State Assemblymembers Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino; far left), Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach; second from right), and Reggie Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles; far right) look on.
The hearing took place four weeks after an incident alongside the 10 Freeway between a CHP officer and a homeless woman who came close to wandering into freeway traffic. The hearing sought to assess the interactions between law enforcement and mentally ill persons, to create a dialogue around the issue and to seek ways to improve officer training and community advocacy for the mentally ill.
Dr. Ira Lesser (left) speaks as a member of a panel of medical experts specializing in mental illness. Elyn Saks, J.D. (right) listens in.
Dr. Lesser was on a panel of experts who specialize in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and he spoke of his experiences at Harbor-UCLA being one of the first responders to treat mentally ill patients when they are brought to the hospital by law enforcement officials. Other panels at the hearing featured law enforcement officials who spoke on officer training when responding to calls about a mentally ill person and service provider agencies officials who spoke on the importance of continued care for the mentally ill population in Los Angeles.
You can watch the full hearing here:
Written by UCLA student Nico Gervasoni.