Riverside County, Local Organizations Provide Elderly Mental Health Services Following Mass Shootings

Carmela Karcher

“I think everyone is surprised any time some form of mass shooting occurs, especially when it involves children and our seniors,” Riverside University Health System Older Adult Systems of Care Administrator Tony Ortego shared.

Within 48 hours, 19 people have been killed by mass shootings in California.

In Monterey Park, all 11 victims were between the ages of 57 and 76.

The gunmen from Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay were ages 66 and 72.

This brings into question, what mental health resources are available for this vulnerable community?

Riverside County has some answers.

“They’re very resilient,” Ortego said while talking about the elderly community. “Unfortunately, they are subjected to being vulnerable due to their age and some of the physical challenges as well.”

RUHS has three desert locations that provide services to seniors in Banning, Desert Hot Springs and Indio.

Those services range from psychiatric care and case management to field work and counseling.

“We connect individuals to much needed resources,” Ortego continued. “The program really exists to address those individuals who are at risk of homelessness or are homeless, who are at risk of being incarcerated or who have recently been hospitalized for psychiatric care. We’re there for those individuals who carry severe mental health diagnoses.”

And those services are available to everyone.

“Regardless of their ability to pay,” Ortego said. “Individuals who have private insurance, we will still see them and then we will connect with them to their private insurance providers or their PCPs in order to help them continue with care or the ongoing care that they may have received from us.

In Palm Desert, the Joslyn Center has experts on hand from doctors to counselors to help people learn how to cope, especially during these uncertain times.

“That helps people recognize and deal with problems that they may be experiencing in their life, whether it’s finance, or again, like I said, relationships or living conditions or family,” Joslyn Center’s Executive Director Jack Newby explained. “Whatever those things are, there’s a resource here. They can talk with someone that is a licensed counselor who can provide them and help them through solving that problem, and provide them the resources.”

But most importantly, it’s learning how to make sure these tragedies don’t put a pause on life.

“I do encourage people to get out and attend and be cautious and to be safe, but to deal with feelings of anxiety and or concern,” Ortego said. “Whether you’re an older adult or a young adult, be reasonable and try not to get caught up in too many hypotheticals of what may or may not happen.”

“We do everything we can to make sure it’s a safe environment and people can feel comfortable here and relaxed here,” Newby shared.” If you stay home out of fear as opposed to going out and becoming involved, then that person in Monterey Park won.”

The county also has a 24/7 mental health urgent care in Palm Springs and a hotline.

That number is 1-800-499-3008.

For a list of resources in the county, click here.

For all resources at the Joslyn Center, click here.

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