A rendering of the new Mental Health America of Los Angeles (MHALA) building.

For more than two decades, Mental Health America of Los Angeles (MHALA) has been Long Beach's go-to nonprofit for mental health services for the homeless population.

Through that partnership, a new one-stop center in the 1900 block of Long Beach Boulevard is scheduled to open before the end of the year, according to Dr. Christine Miller, MHALA president and CEO. The city purchased the property for MHALA and helped with renovation.

The opening will bring to conclusion an 11-year saga that gave the city title to Schroeder Hall, a former National Guard center, to create the Long Beach Police Department East Division Substation. Miller said the agency is focusing on the partnerships and potential at the new center.

MHA provides integrated services now at The Village, a converted church at 456 Elm Ave. downtown. Those services include mental health and addiction therapy, counseling and more, with an emphasis on employment skills. That type of service will expand at the Long Beach Boulevard center, Miller said, and will be assisted by a health clinic provided by The Children's Clinic, an onsite restaurant hiring MHA clients, a housing referral service, hygiene facilities including showers and laundry.

One of the most important services, Miller said, will be employment training.

"We focus on employment for people with disabilities — all disabilities," Miller said. "We provide job training, and we also provide the soft skills (life skills). I've personally seen what happens when you can get them a job and the services they need."

MHA will operate the Long Beach Boulevard facility as a drop-in center, with services available during the day only. Miller stressed that MHALA works through the city's Multi-Service Center and partners with others to find housing for clients.

While the emphasis has been on getting the center open, keeping and expanding services are important, Miller said. That takes money — the reason for an unusual fund-raising event this coming Monday.

Called Under The Toque, the evening at the Marriott Long Beach, 4700 Airport Plaza Drive, features a five-course dinner prepared by some of the city's top culinary artists, including Brad Romoff of the Renaissance Long Beach and Janine Falvo of Lido House Hotel.

Former Long Beach First Lady Nancy Foster will be honored Monday for her long championing of mental health awareness and education. For tickets, $250 each, and more information about the event, call Molly Ann Woods at 562-285-1330, ext. 1055, or email

Miller, who has directed MHALA for two years, said the agency serves about 9,000 people a year in Los Angeles County and employs about 400 people. Long Beach services make up about two-thirds of that.

Partnerships continue to be her emphasis, Miller said, with new efforts at Cal State Long Beach and Dignity Health-St. Mary Medical Center's emergency department. There is an ongoing effort to reach out to transition-aged youth, particularly those coming out of the foster care system.

"We try to use a comprehensive model," Miller said. "Our focus is the individual's well being. We teach quality of life skills; we try to help them live at a higher level. We want to move them from merely surviving to thriving."

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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