When I think of the role Penny Lane Centers has played in my life and my recovery, I am immediately reminded of a scene from “The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers” where Gandalf arrives to the battle of Helms Deep just in time to save the world of Men from certain and bitter doom.
This is my story. I was 7 years into a tour of duty on the streets of Los Angeles County as a methamphetamine addict and alcoholic when my family notified the authorities that I was once again using drugs and sleeping in a makeshift shelter behind their trash cans - in full view of an array of neighbors. Instead of the Sherriff arriving with guns drawn as they had done so many times before, somehow, an outreach triage team (OTT) from Penny Lane Centers showed up with an alternative option for me – mental health therapies.
From the beginning Gabby, Cynthia and Fabiola were frank with me - they had 90 days of help to offer, and any changes to my situation would depend mostly on my contribution to their help. What ensued was an effort to stabilize my life: hygiene kits, one or two subway gift cards, a jacket and regular group meetings that I would now describe as grief therapies.
I did most of the talking, they asked all the key questions. Why would a decorated schoolteacher abandon his career and life and family for the streets and addictions? These questions are still being worked through with the help of the good people at Heritage Clinic, but from a far different perspective on my end.
90 days passed very quickly. In the end, Penny Lane Centers acquired for me both long-term mental health therapies, and, with the help of the Lancaster Salvation Army, Section 8 housing. They guided me into a substance abuse disorder (SUD) program at their own Lancaster facility from which I graduated with no failed drug tests. This week I earned a 6-month sobriety chip from the Palmdale AA group. These combined successes led to every warrant and drug possession charge I had acquired while on the streets being dismissed.
This is my story. My greatest hope is that the sharing of this journey helps secure future funding for this incredible outreach triage program that offers help and hope to homeless men in the Antelope Valley.
The Penny Lane Centers Adult Outreach Triage Team (OTT) is a short-term (up to 90-days) mental health program. Clients are referred to our program in one of two ways. They have either been evaluated by the Psychiatric Mobile Response Team (PMRT) or the LA County Sheriff’s Departments Mental Health Evaluation Team (MET) and determined to meet criteria to be placed on a psychiatric hold and need vital community resources. The OTT is primarily a field-based team, comprised of Therapists, Community Workers, and a Case Manager. Our services are provided at the client’s residence, in the community, or at the Antelope Valley Family Center. During the Outreach and Engagement process our team offers crisis prevention/intervention services, short-term individual therapy, rehabilitation, and case management services. This often includes assistance with groceries, clothing, transportation services, legal and immigration support, as well linkages to affordable short-term or permanent housing, and entitlement benefits through the Department of Social Services that provides Cash-Aid through the General Relief (GR) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs. In addition, to linking eligible clients to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Medi-Cal, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also known locally as CAL-Fresh, our team also delivers fresh groceries, water, and hygiene items to our clients in need. Our overarching goal is to successfully link our clients to long-term behavioral health and medication management services while also ensuring that their needs for vital ancillary services are also met on their journeys to mental wellness and recovery. The impact of the services provided by the OTT program, can be best shared from the perspective of one of our clients.