June 2021 - 35

PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF
RECREATION AND PARKS

The City of Los Angeles Department
of Recreation and Parks serves as the
sheltering and welfare arm for the city, so
employees were quick to respond to the
needs of the community during COVID-19.

youth.... [This occurred] before
COVID-19, and will be there after
COVID-19, and then COVID-19
is a whole separate layer that has
been added on, " says McLaughlin.
For this reason, staff are trained
to recognize warning signs of
mental health issues. " There was
also a required training about suicide signs and awareness - when
it's time to alert somebody else or
when it's time to refer someone
somewhere, " says McLaughlin.
In Los Angeles, the Department
of Recreation and Parks is the sheltering and welfare arm for the city,
" so there were expectations, right
from the get-go, that we were going
to be there for what was needed, "
says Mike Shull, general manager
of City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.
The department opened and operated 24 homeless shelters within
its recreation centers, as well as an
additional 500 camping trailers
used as housing for people experiencing homelessness. " Almost 100
percent of our staff was working
on emergency response. We had
staff on-site at those shelters 24
hours a day, " says Shull.
Department staff also opened
60 alternative learning centers -
50 of which were free - for families that needed a place to bring
their children during the day while
schools were operating virtually.
" [During] the first week, they filled
to capacity, " says Shull.

Partnering to Provide
Mental Health Training
In West Allis, as Recreation and
Community Services staff were
	

taking on increasingly demanding
roles, the department began partnering with the school district's
lead psychologist to provide mental health training for staff. " The
first session she did was just general
mindfulness and talked about ways
to reduce anxiety and how a lot of
what [staff] were feeling was normal, " says Strasser. " Then it gained
popularity and people wanted more,
so then she started doing targeted
meetings. " Other topics included
the importance of sleep, proper eating, and breathing techniques for
combating stress and anxiety.
Strasser also says that some staff
have received mental health training to assist with youth and older
adult programs, and that the training is two-fold, in that the staff also
can apply the lessons to themselves.
" We had one of our school psychologists come in and do mindfulness training with our preschool
teachers [that] provided them with
tools to use in the classroom, " says
Strasser. " They're focused on the
kids, but, at the same time, we're
also focusing on them and giving
them those tools and strategies to
use [on themselves]. "
Similarly, the Recreation and
Youth Development Department
in Jersey City partnered with the
New Jersey Department of Hu-

man Services Division of Mental
Health and Addiction Services to
provide mandatory, paid, mental health trainings on such topics
as coping with COVID-19 stress.
McLaughlin says they will continue to require similar trainings even
as COVID-19 stress begins to dissipate. " We are working with the
health department here to identify
appropriate staff and create the opportunity for what's called mental
health first aid, " she says.
In Los Angeles, mental health
sessions for Recreation and Parks
staff were provided via Zoom
through the county Department
of Public Health. " They talked
through...how you may be feeling,
or if you're feeling these things,
what [they] recommend, " says
Shull. " And, if you need more assistance, how to get it. We talked
about our employee assistance program, which is free to all the employees, and just reminded them of
the resources that are out there. "

Communication Is Key
April Chambers, president of the
Florida National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), says that keeping an open line of communication
is key to ensuring that park and
recreation staff are receiving the
mental health support they need.

PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N .O R G | J U N E 2 02 1 |

Parks & Recreation

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June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of June 2021

June 2021 - 1
June 2021 - Cover1
June 2021 - Cover2
June 2021 - 1
June 2021 - 2
June 2021 - 3
June 2021 - 4
June 2021 - 5
June 2021 - 6
June 2021 - 7
June 2021 - 8
June 2021 - 9
June 2021 - 10
June 2021 - 11
June 2021 - 12
June 2021 - 13
June 2021 - 14
June 2021 - 15
June 2021 - 16
June 2021 - 17
June 2021 - 18
June 2021 - 19
June 2021 - 20
June 2021 - 21
June 2021 - 22
June 2021 - 23
June 2021 - 24
June 2021 - 25
June 2021 - 26
June 2021 - 27
June 2021 - 28
June 2021 - 29
June 2021 - 30
June 2021 - 31
June 2021 - 32
June 2021 - 33
June 2021 - 34
June 2021 - 35
June 2021 - 36
June 2021 - 37
June 2021 - 38
June 2021 - 39
June 2021 - 40
June 2021 - 41
June 2021 - 42
June 2021 - 43
June 2021 - 44
June 2021 - 45
June 2021 - 46
June 2021 - 47
June 2021 - 48
June 2021 - 49
June 2021 - 50
June 2021 - 51
June 2021 - 52
June 2021 - 53
June 2021 - 54
June 2021 - 55
June 2021 - 56
June 2021 - Cover3
June 2021 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com