Film also explores unique problems on Catalina Island

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Film also explores unique problems on Catalina Island

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A new documentary— The Bridge: Pathways to a Trauma-Informed Community— produced by The Guidance Center of Long Beach sheds light on how poverty in Long Beach and on Catalina Island has a devastating effect on children in those communities.

Photos courtesy The Guidance Center

By: Cory Bilicko
Managing Editor

Nearly 30 percent of children in Long Beach are living below the poverty level, and many of those kids requiring mental-health services are on an ever-growing wait list, rather than getting the help they need to break them out of the poverty cycle.

That unfortunate fact is the focus of a new documentary— The Bridge: Pathways to a Trauma-Informed Community— produced by The Guidance Center, a local nonprofit agency that has been providing mental-health services since 1946.
Through interviews with community leaders and former Guidance Center clients, the 28-minute film— shot in Long Beach and on Catalina Island— illustrates the consequences of poverty on mental health and how developing a trauma-informed community is part of a far-reaching solution to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

In an interview with the Signal Tribune Wednesday, Patricia Costales, LCSW, CEO of The Guidance Center, explained how seeing the large number of children in need led to the idea of producing a documentary.

“We have so many kids that we serve here, and the kids that we see have a very high need for mental-health services,” Costales said. “And, a couple of years ago, our wait list got really high. It was very distressing because these aren’t kids who should have to wait for services.”

She explained that, shortly thereafter, the County increased funding to her organization to accommodate the wait list, and she was initially very excited but soon realized that the additional money would not go far.

“Of course, it was all absorbed immediately, and we’re still running in circles trying to keep up with the demand,” she said. “So, it got me thinking about how our system is structured so that the services are all about treating kids once they’re at this really high level of acuity and need. So, I started thinking we really need to do some more system change. We need to find ways where we can have more of an earlier intervention or preventative role in the community as well.”

Costales said the City of Long Beach was concurrently undertaking a similar approach, with its Safe Long Beach initiative.

“[Long Beach Police] Chief [Robert] Luna is very much invested in how we can collaborate better in the community regarding trauma and addressing the needs of our families and school districts,” Costales said. “So, we found great partnerships in trying to find ways to have the community respond better to families in need, so that they don’t get to a point of such crisis.”

Luna is one of the individuals who was interviewed for the film, along with: Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia; Kelly Colopy, director of Long Beach Department of Health & Human Services; Tiffany Brown, assistant superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District; Elisa Nicholas, CEO of The Children’s Clinic; and Giovanna Ferraro, business owner, community activist and a commissioner of the City of Long Beach Human Relations Commission.

However, the purview of the documentary extends 22 miles out into the Pacific, to Catalina, where poverty is also a problem, exacerbated by the fact that the island is dependent on tourism and that work can be seasonal.

Costales said The Guidance Center is the only mental-health agency that serves Catalina and that therapists take the boat out to the island every day.

“We’ve really invested in that community because we understand that, if we were to pull out, they wouldn’t get help otherwise,” she said.

Costales said that when people think of Catalina, they typically imagine big, beautiful houses and leisurely excursions, but, because her organization has serviced the island for decades, she and her staff are well aware of its poverty issues.

“[People] think of it as a vacation spot,” she said. “They don’t necessarily think about all the people that make it possible to be a vacation spot— the people who work in the hotels, who do the construction. Those are the families that live there, and their jobs are seasonal, and their pay is low and rent is outrageous there. So, you have parents who choose to live there because they feel that it’s safer than in the big city— they don’t have gangs to worry about— but, to live there, they’re literally working two or three jobs. They’re living in a studio apartment with two other families.”

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Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna is among local leaders who participated in the documentary The Bridge: Pathways to a Trauma-Informed Community.

Costales added that during the off seasons, some of these families end up living in tents at the campgrounds.
Unfortunately, while the the influence of gangs might be avoided, living with several other families isn’t the safest alternative either, and kids end up being unsupervised while their parents work several jobs.

Providing insights into that unique problem for the documentary are community leaders of the island, including: Wayne Herbst, retired dean of students of Avalon School; Santa Dominguez, RN, MPH, nurse at Catalina Island Medical Center; and Enrique Dominguez, pastor of Singing Waters Christian Center.

Costales also had some seasoned help in making the film, including that of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Matthew Murray and cinematographer Evan Barthelman. The original score was written by Emmy Award-winning composer Matt Pavolaitis and Emmy Award-nominated Colleen Grace.

“The goal is, if we educate the community about what they are going through in easy ways, we can be more trauma-informed,” Costales said. “Then we can help them feel better, we can help them do better, and then they can get out of that cycle of poverty.”

A free public screening of the film will take place at 6:30pm on Wednesday, April 26 at The Art Theatre, 2025 E 4th St. Doors will open at 6pm. Immediately following the screening, there will be a short panel discussion. Seating is limited; the public is encouraged to reserve a free ticket at bit.ly/the-bridge-doc. For more information on the documentary, visit tgclb.org/news-events/thebridgedoc.