Only 10 days after the murder of 11 people at at Monterey Park dance studio, the city has laid out its efforts toward collective recovery, noting the emotional toll of the tragedy on the city’s first responders.
This includes a public safety response, bolstered city staff support, accessible mental health resources and the beginning steps toward an emergency victim’s fund — to be voted on during a special City Council meeting tonight.
City Manager Ron Bow on Tuesday, Jan. 31, thanked first responders for “going beyond the call of duty,” at a news conference that included city officials and department heads at Monterey Park City Hall.
He added that the emotional toll remains heavy for those who were at the scene.
“The trauma that these first responders experience in words of our fire chief, Matt Hallock, could cause everlasting effects leading to an end of a career,” he said. “I would like to publicly apologize to the fire service community and our very own fire department for not intervening sooner, as the dialogue continued throughout the first week.”
Hallock cited that of the 51 responders in his department, 18 were on the shooting scene. Four have not returned to work since the incident. It is unclear if those folks will return.
Despite the difficult after effects, Hallock commended the training his team had prior to the tragedy.
“For them to save nine lives — is a big deal. What’s hurting the most is not saving 11 and that’s a hard thing to carry,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that images and sounds and what was experienced that night, you know, will be here, in the forefront of their minds, for quite a while.”
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Newly elected Mayor Jose Sanchez has been an educator in Monterey Park for 18 years. Taking on the mantle from outgoing leader Henry Lo, Sanchez assured the community that his efforts are motivated by the goal of collective wellbeing.
“It’s not going to take 10 days for our community heal,” he said. “It might not take 20 or even 300 days for us to heal, because it is a process I’m still trying to heal from from this and I know that many of us out there are still trying to find ways to come together but I know that this community is very resilient.”
To this end, Bow, the city manager, led the discussion on the city’s intention to create a third-party committee to facilitate incoming donations toward the Monterey Park Victim’s Fund. While the members of the committee have not yet been decided, he explained that the creation of a separate committee will ensure that there is no “hidden agenda” when the funds are distributed.
“There are many funding organizations out there that’s trying to raise money for the victims and relatives of the victims,” he said. “I think people that want to donate are maybe a little bit hesitant and donate to some organizations. They feel much more comfortable donating to the city of Monterey Park. We the city cannot do that legally.”
While the city sources state funding to provide care to its affected staff, residents already have resources to access mental healthcare support.
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In partnership with Chinatown Service Center, the city is offering drop-in counseling to any resident affected by the Jan. 21 shooting through Friday, Feb. 10.
Councilmember Vinh T. Ngo serves as the current Board president of the Chinatown Service Center and knows the strength that his neighbors hold.
“We’ve been through a lot in this community but nothing like this,” he said. “You talk about stuff that hits you. Well, it hit us and hit us hard. But we have one of two choices: You can be hit harder and not get up from this. (Or) We can recover. I know from this community that we are a resilient bunch. We’re gonna get back up and we’re going to recover because this community will continue.”
Nearly 3 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders struggle with a mental illness or substance use disorder, according to a report by the American Psychiatric Association.
Compared to other populations, Asian people are less likely to seek out or receive mental health treatment, data from the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association shows – and even then, they’ll often seek help only when in crisis.
Case workers are multilingual and are available at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library on Romona Ave Tuesdays and Wednesdays noon to 6 p.m. and Thursdays and Fridays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“As we heal and recover, we will grow and we will support each other and make this community even better,” added Ngo as he gestured back to the seated city staff.
“We have great folks behind me who ensure that happens.”
For additional free, multilingual resources, visit montereypark.ca.gov/1483/resources-for-victims-and-the-community