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UCI joins in helping shelter residents

Win-win situation has School of Medicine providing psychiatrists who are finishing up residency requirements.

September 30, 2013|By Bryce Alderton
  • Angela Yu, a chief psychiatry resident from UC Irvine, counsels clients at the Friendship Shelter in Laguna Beach.
Angela Yu, a chief psychiatry resident from UC Irvine,… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Psychiatrists are finding a place to work out what they've learned in medical school while helping a needy population in Laguna Beach.

Men and women facing mental health struggles can talk with a psychiatrist at the Friendship Shelter, a transitional facility that houses 32 residents at a time.

Kay Ostensen, the shelter's clinical supervisor, forged a relationship with UC Irvine's School of Medicine to provide the psychiatrists, who are completing their residency requirements.

Angela Yu, in her fourth and final year of residency at UCI, started seeing shelter clients in July and is on board through June.

Yu, 29, works three to four hours per week and sees five to six clients during a shift. She is the fourth resident psychiatrist at the shelter since it began offering the free service in 2010.

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Yu, along with the previous psychiatrists, provide a crucial service to shelter clients, Ostensen said.

"The need for mental health services is great," said Ostensen, a licensed psychologist and marriage, family and child therapist who was a school counselor and psychologist for the Laguna Beach Unified School District for 22 years.

"As much as we seek to work closely with county mental health [staff], there are not enough professionals to serve everyone. Our residents find it challenging to be living in a house of 32. Many [clients] have dual diagnoses ... . It's a vicious circle. They need assessment and counseling to pave the path toward independent living."

The shelter also has six program counselors, who meet with shelter residents when they move in, said Analisa Andrus, the shelter's self-sufficiency program manager.

One counselor is a part-time worker while the remaining five are interns from master's degree programs in social work, marriage and family therapy, and psychology, Andrus said.

"[Counselors] do an assessment and compile a client's history," Andrus said. "[Residents] are then referred to Dr. Yu for evaluation."

Unlike counselors, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication.

Yu, who grew up in St. Louis and graduated from the University of Missouri School of Medicine before heading west, said that when she learned about the shelter's psychiatry program, she leaped into action.

"I signed up right away," said Yu, an Orange resident.

Andrus said Yu has been asset to the shelter.

Yu has developed an affection for clients as she has listened to them and tried to help.

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