HERMOSA BEACH — A private mental health clinic based in the San Gabriel Valley has been chosen to set up and run a long-awaited child-abuse prevention program here.
Open Door Clinics, a nonprofit corporation based in Alhambra with six clinics in Los Angeles County, will work out of the Hermosa Beach Community Center on Pier Avenue. The program will include citywide public forums on child-abuse education, special training for police officers in child-abuse detection and distribution of a quarterly newsletter to residents.
Jack W. Dresser, program director for the clinics, said a child therapist will be available at the center one day a week to meet with the public.
Under a contract approved by the City Council on Tuesday night, Open Door will provide 30 hours of professional services each week for one year beginning Feb. 17. The city will pay the company $22,000 for the year and will provide up to $6,500 for materials, supplies, telephones, secretarial support and mileage reimbursement. All services will be free to city residents.
Approval of the Open Door contract ends the a 1 1/2-year search for a child-abuse prevention coordinator for the city. The search began shortly after several preschools in the beach cities were investigated for allegations of child abuse in early 1984. Manhattan Beach created a similar position during the summer of 1984 in response to allegations of widespread child sexual abuse in that city. That position has since been phased out.
Hermosa Beach first considered hiring a child-abuse prevention specialist in July 1984, but one year later its first choice turned down the job. Recruitment began for a second time last summer, and the city began negotiating with Open Door Clinics in November.
"We look forward to finally moving forward," said Councilman John Cioffi, who has been active in various child-abuse education efforts in the South Bay. "This is well overdue."
In an effort to eliminate possible duplication of services, the three beach cities--Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach--submitted a joint proposal to the South Bay Hospital District last summer asking for money to assess existing child-abuse education and prevention programs in the those cities. Officials in the cities said that proposal was intended to set the groundwork for a beach cities office on child-abuse prevention and education.
But Virginia Fischer, a hospital district board member, said this week that the proposal has been rejected by the board because an assessment has already been conducted by the South Bay Coalition for Alternatives to Domestic Violence, a nonprofit group in Redondo Beach. Fischer said board members received copies of the assessment several weeks ago, which they are now reviewing.
The hospital district board has not ruled out the possibility of funding a districtwide program on child abuse, but it would be considered only after an assessment is made of all health needs in the hospital district, Fischer said.
In Hermosa Beach, the one-year contract with Open Door requires the clinic to provide 13 services for the city, including developing a child-abuse resource library, promoting community education in child-abuse prevention, and searching for other sources of financial support for the program.
"I don't expect the need to go away after one year," Dresser said. "I am hoping that we will be able to seek out other funding sources so we can expand the program. The funding right now is minimal."
The City Council originally allocated $50,000 for the program, but that allocation was cut in half last fall when City Manager Gregory Meyer proposed a series of budget cuts during a midyear review. Meyer said the original sum was intended to pay for a two-year program and was no longer necessary because the program was starting a year later than expected.
Dresser said the clinic will operate out of space provided by the city at the Community Center, but said most of the research and administrative work will be done out of the Alhambra office. The Hermosa Beach office will be open once a week, probably on Monday, he said.