By Lou Ponsi
Members of the Garden Grove and Westminster police departments partnered with several advocacy groups in an outreach event to educate the Vietnamese community on mental health issues and eliminate stigma. Held Saturday in the heart of Little Saigon in Westminster’s popular Asian Garden Mall, the inaugural Pho-Covery Celebration was a chance for police to interact with residents in a casual setting.
“It’s about building a rapport with the community, especially with those that may have family members that suffer from mental illness,” said Garden Grove PD Capt. Travis Whitman. We want “them to understand what our role is as first responders to deal with people in crisis and that we are trained in crisis intervention.”
The departments had booths with Vietnamese-speaking personnel answering questions and offering pamphlets on topics including identity theft, emergency housing, substance abuse and safeguarding your home from burglars. The police also served drinks and pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup provided by Quac Viet Foods.
“It’s important that we do outreach at events like this,” said Westminster PD Cmdr. Mike Chapman. “We’re here to educate the community on what resources are available.” Chapman added while mental health issues impact many families in the home, they also can affect the larger community.
Many of the homeless population in Garden Grove and Westminster battle some kind of mental health issue. Both departments work with mental health clinicians and homeless outreach representatives who fan out in the community for one-on-one consultations with the homeless, Chapman said.
“We are not out here to push them along, but to help get them along and get them on their feet,” Chapman said. “We want to make sure that we also provide them with services.” While much of the event focused on education, it also was about building confidence in a community that historically has a deep-seated mistrust of law enforcement. Many who have immigrated to the United States in recent decades have experienced corrupt police in their home country, instilling fear and uncertainty. In many cases, that sentiment has been passed to younger generations.
The Westminster and Garden Grove PDs have worked to foster strong community relationships in the tight-knit Vietnamese enclaves of their cities through events like Pho-Covery. Building trust, police said, means residents are more likely to reach out before a crisis occurs.
Paul Hoang, president of Viet-CARE, a Westminster nonprofit that provides resources to Vietnamese residents dealing with mental illness and other behavioral health issues, encouraged attendees to not fear the police.
“They are no different than you or I,” Hoang said in Vietnamese. “Connect with them and let them know your needs.”
This article was provided to the OC Tribune by arrangement with Behind the Badge, a site devoted to coverage of law enforcement issues, personalities and news. For more, go to www.behindthebadgeoc.com .
Categories: Across the Area