Well-Being of Residents on Health and Safety Agenda

The physical and emotional well-being of everyone in Beverly Hills, both young and old, occupied much of the agenda during the most recent meeting of the Health and Safety Commission on Aug. 28.

Beverly Hills Unified School Board Member Rachelle Marcus opened the session with an update on a variety of maintenance projects and facility upgrades, including the installation of the Bulldog Aid Wellness Center at Beverly Vista Middle School.

“Students at BVMS now have access to counselors, a wellness space, and opportunities to practice mental wellness,” the school’s principal, Dr. Kelly Skon, told the Courier in an email. “No longer is there a stigma associated with taking care of oneself. It has become a part of our Bulldog culture. ”

Crews were in the process of connecting plumbing and electricity, Marcus said. District officials expect to have the facility ready to open in October.

Marcus shared time-lapse footage of a crane lowering portions of the modular structureinto place. She noted that its beige exterior walls, green door and burgundy-trimmed roof match the color palette of the existing campus, making it appear “like it’s a part of the school.”

Additionally, the district has begun posting new signs at their schools sharing information about mental health resources and coping strategies. These were put up in part to comply with AB 748, a state law passed last year in the hope of ensuring that youth can find support in moments of personal crisis.

“I’m really happy to hear about the focus on mental health,” Health and Safety Commission Vice Chair Erica Felsenthal said. “Like Commissioner Baker said, they all need it. We all need it so it’s great to have those resources posted and available.

Other health and safety-related developments underway at Beverly Hills Unified include a fresh revision of the district’s emergency operation procedure. That’s the set of guidelines students and staff will follow in the event of a critical incident or natural disaster on campus.

“They’re so old,” Marcus said. “They were last done in 2017.”

Mark Mead, BHUSD executive director of school safety, was working on that update. District officials hope to have the revised emergency plan ready in time for the Great Shakeout, a statewide earthquake drill coming up on Oct. 19.

Locally, the Beverly Hills Human Services Division is preparing for the city’s first Day of Wellness at Roxbury Park on Sept. 10. Over 40 mental health and well-being experts will take part in the resource fair. It will feature yoga for kids and adults, healing sound bath ceremonies as well as workshops on caregiver support, social media awareness and a wide variety of topics.

The interactive and educational gathering is free and open to all. If it’s a hit, it may become a recurring event, the city’s Interim Human Services Outreach Manager, Enisha Clark, told the commission.

“As we’re planning and seeing how much excitement is behind this event and how many people are stepping up and saying I want to participate, we’re definitely creating a blueprint for how we’re going to do it next year, how we might bring it back better,” she Said.

The day of wellness falls in the middle of suicide prevention month. In preparation for a nationwide, month-long awareness campaign, commissioners heard a presentation Monday from Kathleen Kim, Director of the Briskin/Wilder Welcome Center at the Maple Counseling Center.

She pointed out that 48,183 people died by suicide in 2021, an average of one person every 11 minutes. It has been a steadily growing cause of death in the U.S. over the past 20 years according to the CDC, with people 85 and older experiencing the highest rate of cases.

Kim urged people to not ignore warning signs in their loved ones. Although it can be an uncomfortable discussion to have with a friend or relative, she noted that there is no research to suggest that talking to someone about suicide would make it more likely that someone would take their own life.

“If they’re threatening suicide, take it seriously,” Kim said. “Don’t think that it’s an attention-seeking behavior. Even if it is, threats of suicide should always be taken seriously.”

Support services for older Beverly Hills residents managing mobility issues, chronic conditions and those recovering from falls were brought up Monday during a presentation from June Simmons, President and CEO of the Partners in Care. The organization has worked with the city to receive referrals of at-risk individuals from the fire department.

As many as 20 individuals who connected with Partners in Care this way have attended or completed their Matter of Balance Program, Simmons said. It teaches people safe exercises to rebuild lower body strength and helps them identify and minimize hazards in their residences so that they can regain the freedom to move about their homes. In addition, in-person workshops like Matter of Balance can become a source of social interaction for those who have become isolated.

The commission also received an update on the installation of a citywide outdoor warning siren system. These will be used to broadcast emergency information and updates in public spaces. The project was conceived in the wake of the Woolsey Fire, which destroyed over 600 structures in neighboring Malibu alone five years ago. 

So far, 10 sirens have been installed. The last two going up should be online within a month, the city’s Emergency Manager Meena Janmohamed said.