Photo ID: A blue, green and purple fractal with photos of Curley Bonds and Henry Stern to one side and text overlay

Serious Mental Illness and Homelessness, An Interview with Senator Henry Stern and Dr. Curley Bonds

An interview with California State Senator Henry Stern and Dr. Curley Bonds, Chief Medical Officer for Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health about legislation and programmatic changes needed to better serve highly vulnerable individuals. Curt and Katie talk with both Senator Stern and Dr. Bonds about the limitations of Laura’s Law and the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act as well as the hope for stronger, more collaborative mental health initiatives for individuals grappling with serious mental illness and homelessness. We talk about the practical funding and workforce concerns as well as how to fix them while also supporting mental health professionals.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

Interview with Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) and Dr. Curley Bonds, CMO for LA County Department of Mental Health

Photo ID: Senator Henry SternSenator Henry Stern is a sixth-generation Californian and native of the greater Los Angeles area who has represented the nearly one million residents of the 27th Senate District since first being elected to serve the 27th Senate District in November 2016.

Stern has chaired the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee since 2018, where he has worked tirelessly to bolster the state’s wildfire preparedness, push to have the state address the climate change emergency, improve our democracy and fight to help some of California’s most vulnerable members.  He was also recently appointed as Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. In addition, Stern sits on the Senate’s Budget, Environmental Quality, Judiciary, and Energy, Utilities & Communications committees, as well as the Budget Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection & Energy.

A former educator and environmental attorney, Stern received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and earned his law degree at UC Berkeley. Born in 1982, Stern lives in Los Angeles County with his wife, Alexandra Stern, whom he married in 2019.


Photo ID: Dr. Curley Bonds, MDCurley L. Bonds, M.D., oversees all clinical practices for the Los Angeles Country Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) as well as the full range of programs that function to engage and stabilize clients by bringing them into the Department’s community-based system of care.

Dr. Bonds is a psychiatrist with extensive experience in a variety of clinical, academic and research settings. Most recently, he was the Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Charles R. Drew University School of Medicine in Los Angeles and the Medical Director for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. His areas of expertise include healthcare disparities, cross cultural psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and collaborative healthcare.

Dr. Bonds has won numerous teaching and advocacy awards including Chief Resident of the Year in 1996 and The Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness in 2009. He is active with several professional organizations including the American Association of Community Psychiatrists, the Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists, the Black Psychiatrists of America and the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Bonds is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a Fellow of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. He is a past president of the Southern California Psychiatric Society and the recipient of their 2018 Distinguished Service Award.

He completed his B.A. in sociology at Emory University and earned his M.D. from Indiana University School of Medicine.

In this episode we talk about serious mental illness and homelessness:

  • Continuing our special series on Fixing Mental Healthcare in America
  • What the ideal mental health care can look like for individuals with serious mental illness, substance abuse treatment, and navigating homelessness
  • The siloed nature of services at present
  • The importance of consistent engagement and familiarity
  • Recovery-oriented and person-centered care
  • The importance of self-directed care
  • Wraparound services
  • The importance of engaging people with lived experience
  • Culturally responsive services
  • The current laws protect autonomy without the means to support people without capacity
  • The bureaucracy that is keeping people from getting the services they need
  • Changes to Laura’s Law and LPS Act that are needed to better serve individuals with grave disability or require conservatorship
  • Engagement, rights, and how to better serve individuals
  • Assisted Outpatient Treatment – how it can be best utilized and most effective
  • The ability to shift things through budget and regulatory changes
  • The understanding that current caseloads that are too high and the need to add resources
  • Alternatives to long term conservatorship
  • The willingness to invest in services and solutions
  • Balancing the tension between self-advocacy/self-determination versus providing care
  • Mental Health Advanced Directives as a tool to help with making these decisions
  • Who can and should be at the table in making these decisions
  • The desire to invest in people to provide services
  • Whether to invest and how to assess efficacy
  • The problem of the fragmented systems and communication about mental health advanced directives
  • The importance of education for people needing and providing care on the options
  • Looking at the benefits and “selling” the positive elements of assisted treatment
  • Letting clinicians do clinical work – why that’s important and ideas of how to make it work

“We have to let clinicians do what clinicians do best — take care of people.” — Dr. Curley Bonds, CMO for Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

  • Tracking outcomes effectively while diminishing bureaucracy
  • Looking at the most effective goals and outcomes for clients
  • Looking at unfunded mandates and how to support therapists and clients to get services without so much paper pushing and complicated outcomes
  • Having service providers at the table to create the programs effectively
  • Results-driven metrics and payment (the pros and cons)
  • Addressing policy and stigma
  • Looking at the problems with the current process for services and conservatorship
  • Ideas for redirecting funding and working in collaboration with law enforcement
  • How to take part in these efforts and weigh in on legislation, especially early in the process
  • Our reflections on the interviews and the next steps

Our Generous Sponsors for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide:

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Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Los Angeles Times Op-Ed: Our mental health laws are failing

Laura’s Law

LPS: Lanterman-Petris-Short Law

Dr. Partovi in Skid Row

California Tax Law H – Homeless Initiative

MHSA: Mental Health Services Act

Office of Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles): State Capitol, Room 5080, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 527-4947

RAND Report: How to Transform the US Mental Health System

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Fixing Mental Healthcare in America

Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Transcripts do not include advertisements just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).

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