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Community Impact

Forensic psychology students make an impact at a homeless citation clinic

Dr. Debra Warner

The Los Angeles City Attorney Homeless Court Citation Clinic has a long term and a strong relationship with Debra Warner, Psy.D., full professor in the Clinical Forensic Psychology Department at the Los Angeles Campus, and the students in her department. The City Attorney’s Office holds several clinics a year at different locations throughout the county in order to assist adults who are homeless or are at risk of being homeless. Over the past few years, Dr. Warner and her students have volunteered their time to assist the clinic with the intake process, helping participants fill out the necessary paperwork and detailing their reason for seeking help. Dr. Warner says having Clinical Forensic Psychology students conduct the intake screening is beneficial to the clinic because they have certain sensitivities and possess the training that is necessary when handling this group of clients.

“As future Clinical Forensic Psychologists, it was imperative to have us do the first screening because we have the knowledge and training to help these individuals. We are familiar with their backgrounds and mental health needs,” says TCSPP student Christopher McMullen. He concluded that is important to make the clients feel comfortable seeking help by showing compassion and respect towards them from the beginning.

Several clinics are held throughout the year at different locations to assist adults who are homeless and/or at risk of being homeless throughout the Los Angeles County and who may also struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, co-occurring disorders or veteran related issues. The primary and most popular service advertised to participants is to help individuals who have citations and fail to appear in court or are unable to pay fines and fees which causes problems for them and may result in warrants. For the participants, having a warrant or unresolved criminal matter can become a barricade as they try to overcome homelessness and other issues.

Over a dozen TCSPP students participated at the latest March clinic that was held at the Veterans Park Community Center in Long Beach. “The Chicago School of Professional Psychology has participated for a number of years and we have always enjoyed our partnership with them,” says City Attorney Patrick Shibuya.

The March clinic assisted over 200 people and due to the high demand of services the clinic went over the scheduled time. Aside from help with citations, the clinic included stations for participants to seek legal representation, housing, food and mental health services.

TCSPP student and volunteer Kaylynn Patel said, “I think it is very important for mental health professionals and students to volunteer in these types of clinics. Working in the mental health field it is important to understand the struggle the homeless population has and the stigma and perception society has about them.”

“Not a lot of institutions have our program I’m always informing others of The Chicago School and what we are taught,” said McMullen. He continued, “Being in a clinical forensic program, this is the population we’ll work with and it’s touching to know what you know and go out and actually help these people.”