Oral Histories

Clients, families, social workers, advocates, psychologists, psychiatrists, and DMH staff are all part of the fabric of the story of mental health in California and in LA County and how it has been transformed over the years. Each person brings a unique life story and perspective, but all are committed to making life better for those who suffer from mental illness. Here are some of their personal stories.

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A

Aquirre, Alfredo

Interviewed by: Marcia Meldrum

Alfredo Aquirre, MSW, is the Director of Behavioral Health Services for San Diego County.  He received his Master's Degree in Social Welfare in 1978 from UC Berkeley and was Director of the Children's System of Care for Mental Health in San Mateo County, before becoming Assistant Director for Children's Mental Health in San Diego in 1999.  He combined this position with that of Acting Assistant Director for Adult/Older Adult Mental Health for a number of years, during which he led the MHSA transformation of services in the County.  He became Director of Mental Health in 2007 and assumed his current position in 2012.

He has a special interest in cultural competency development and has worked to increase capacity to serve individuals with co-occurring disorders, to reduce disparities for ethnic communities in seeking care, and to establish primary care based mental health services.

Mr. Aguirre also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Network of Social Work Managers, is a member of the California Mental Health Director Association and the organization’s Co-Chair of the Ethnic Services Committee, and is a member of SAMHSA’s Child, Adolescent and Family Branch Council on Collaboration and Coordination.
 

Aguirre transcript

B

Bogen, Laurel Ann

Interviewed by: Diane DeMartino

Laurel Ann Bogen is the author of ten books of poetry and short fiction including Washing a Language; Fission; The Last Girl in the Land of the Butterflies; The Burning; Do Iguanas Dance Under the Moonlight? and Rag Tag We Kiss.  From 1996 until 2002 she was literary curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she coordinated the Writers in Focus poetry series and co-authored a grant sponsored by Poets and Writers, linking the museum's education department with Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center to create a writers-in-residence program. She has been an instructor of poetry and performance for the UCLA Extension Writers' Program since 1990 and is well known for her lively readings.  She is also a client at Edelman Mental Health Center in West LA.

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Bond, Catherine

Interviewed by: Howard Padwa

Catherine Bond, MFT, is one of the leading consumer advocates in California. She has worked as a therapist and an English instructor, and also spent time teaching in South Korea and Thailand, before becoming involved in peer support and training. Among her many accomplishments in the mental health field, she has served as the Training Coordinator for the Project Return Peer Support Network and as a Training Director for Mental Health America of Los Angeles. In addition, she has worked extensively with the California Network of Mental Health Clients. She is currently the Vice-Chair of the Los Angeles County Client Coalition, and she is serving as a strategic planning consultant for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

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Brickman, Harry

Interviewed by: Howard Padwa

Dr. Harry Brickman was the founding Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health in 1960 and served in that position until 1976. He received his medical degree from NYU, interned at the Menninger Clinic, and completed his residency in psychiatry at UCSF.  For the next few years, he gained a variety of experiences, setting up a new Mental Health Clinic in Riverside, completing a tour of duty as a Naval psychiatrist in San Diego, and worked as medical director of a youth correctional facility in Norwalk.  In 1957, he joined the faculty of the UCLA Department of Psychiatry.  As the first Director of LAC-DMH, he increased the provision of mental health services throughout the County, with an emphasis on consultative services, and established the Education and Research Division to build a knowledge base for future planning. Since leaving LAC-DMH, he has pursued teaching and practice as a member of the the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences.

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C

Camp, Catherine

Interviewed by: Howard Padwa

Catherine Camp is the former Executive Director of the California Mental Health Directors Association (CMHDA), serving the organization from its founding in 1989 through 2000. During her time with CMHDA, she worked on the restructuring of the way public mental health services in California were funded. She was also one of California's leading advocates for the public mental health system. After leaving the CMHDA, she served as a consultant to the California State Budget Committee in 2001 and 2002. 

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Cooperberg, Judy

Interviewed by: Diane DeMartino

Judy Cooperberg is Executive Director of Mental Health America Antelope Valley Enrichment Services in Lancaster, California.  She became an MHA volunteer in 1981, when in recovery from depression, and was hired the following year as MHA Regional Director for the San Fernando Valley.  In 1989, she became aware of the need for mental health services in the Antelope Valley and opened up a small program with one and a half staff, and herself half-time.  Today, she runs a $4.7 million dollar program that provides intensive case management for those with mental health needs, as well as a drop-in center and assistance facility for the homeless.  She is a published poet and is known nationally for her work and advocacy for people affected by mental illness.

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Crimin, Susan

Interviewed by: Diane DeMartino

Susan Crimin is the Supervising Psychiatric Social Worker at Palmdale Mental Health Center in the Antelope Valley.

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Crowell, Areta

Interviewed by: Marcia Meldrum

Dr. Areta Crowell was Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health 1991-1998. She was born and raised in Canada and earned her Ph.D. in psychology at McGill University. After a few years teaching in New Jersey, she chose to go into mental health services research after moving to Los Angeles and joined LAC-DMH 1965. She took on many different responsibilities at DMH over the next 20 years, in research, planning, and administration, including serving as Regional Director in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys.  In 1986, she accepted the Directorship of Mental Health for San Diego County. She returned to LAC-DMH as Director in 1990, and was noted for her strong administrative and negotiation skills and for her promotion of consumer and family interests and involvement. Since her retirement in 1998, she has remained active on many mental health boards and on the Healthy Families advisory panel.

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