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.



Posner, Andrew

Interviewed by: Howard Padwa

Andrew Posner learned about mental illness through his own struggles, moved himself out of a board-and-care home to live in the community, and worked at a series of jobs to pay for his own treatment.  He became Executive Director of BACUP, Benefits Assistance Clients Urban Projects in 1986.  This self-help group assists mental health clients to qualify for benefits, but also offers social and educational activities.



Quiroz, Roberto

Interviewed by: Marcia Meldrum and Troy Gabrielson

Roberto Quiroz was Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health 1984-91.  He earned his MSW from Columbia University and worked in New York in family therapy and at the NASW headquarters. In 1972, he was appointed assistant director of a new community mental health center in Pueblo, Colorado, and subsequently served as the center’s executive director for 5 years. He came to Los Angeles County in 1979 to join J.R. Elpers’ team as Regional Director of Mental Health for the San Fernando/Antelope Valley Region. After Dr. Elpers’ resignation, Mr. Quiroz became interim Director and then Director of LAC-DMH during several difficult years characterized by many funding issues. After resigning as Director, he became Executive Director of the Mental Health Corporation of Denver. Since retiring in 2000, he has returned to LA and served on several public service boards, including the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) and the National Latino Behavioral Health Association (NLBHA).



Ragins, Mark

Interviewed by: Marcia Meldrum and Howard Padwa

Mark Ragins grew up in Southern California.  He graduated from the California Institute of Technology and received his MD from Washington University in St. Louis.  After completing his residency in psychiatry at LA County-USC Hospital, he worked for several years in LAC-DMH public mental health clinics and at UCLA-Harbor General Hospital.  In 1990, he became staff psychiatrist and one of the founding members of the Village, Mental Health America-LA’s demonstration Integrated Service Agency program under AB3777 (the Wright-Bronzan-McCorquodale Act of 1988).  Here Dr. Ragins developed his philosophy and methods of recovery-oriented treatment, which has made him one of the leaders of the Recovery Movement, not only in Los Angeles County, but nationally and internationally.  He has lectured and consulted widely and his book, Road to Recovery, and many of his other writings are available on the MHA-LA website (www.mhala.org).  Dr. Ragins was the co-recipient of the American Psychiatric Association’s van Ameringen Award in 1995 for his outstanding contributions to the field of psychiatric rehabilitation and was named a Distinguished APA Fellow in 2006.


Ramirez-Flores, Yadira

Interviewed by: Diane DeMartino

Yadira Ramirez-Flores is one of the Spanish-speaking psychiatric social workers at Edelman Mental Health Center.