Pacific Asian Counseling Services (PACS) is a 501(c)3 non-profit community organization.
Our mission is to enrich the lives of children and families through counseling and caring. We provide culturally sensitive and language specific services with expertise in the immigrant and refugee Asian Pacific Islander populations.
Pacific Asian Counseling Services (PACS), formerly known as “WRAP Family Services,” was founded in 1981 by the Assistance League of Southern California based on the documented lack of social services for Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs) in Los Angeles. The pilot project to assess the needs of APIs in the Western region was funded by United Way.
The genesis for the agency came from a UCLA study directed by Dr. Harry Kitano which provided evidence of a growing minority population outpacing the development of local, culturally and linguistically sensitive social services.
The study asserted that the lack of services for APIs was based on the false public perception that Asian Americans’ strong family and community systems effectively solved any problems that might arise. For this reason, many public and private social service agencies felt no need to develop culturally and linguistically sensitive programs for APIs. Compounding this dilemma was the low utilization by APIs for existing services which strengthened the belief that there were no significant needs in the community.
In 1997, PACS divested from the Assistance League of Southern California to become incorporated as a 501(c)3 private nonprofit community-based organization. This move allowed for more direct responses to the unmet social and mental health needs of the APIs as well as positioning the agency to receive direct funding including contracts from the Department of Mental Health and Department of Children and Family Services.
In January 2006, WRAP Family Services changed its name to “Pacific Asian Counseling Services” (PACS) to better describe its services. Over the years, PACS has served thousands of low-income children, individuals and families from many ethnicities and cultures.
PACS has expertise working with API populations but its services are available to all. In 2013, the client breakdown was 28% API, 40% Latino, 20% African American, 8% White and 4% Other, Multi-racial or Unknown. 100% of our clients are low to extremely low income. The age categories of our clients are 37% infants and children, 22% teens, 38% young adults and adults, and 3% older adults.
PACS has three offices that are located in: a) SA 2 in the San Fernando Valley; b) SA5 including the Westside and surrounding areas; and c) SA8 covering Long Beach, the South Bay and Beach cities, and nearby areas such as Carson.
Our Vision – Creating Possibilities
PACS is committed to the concept of “creating possibilities” so people can recover from mental illness and lead productive lives in their community. It is a key agency because of the diversity of low income APIs that it serves in Los Angeles County. As of July 2011, there were over 10 million inhabitants in the County of Los Angeles. APIs make up about 15.5% of the total population and it is reported as the fastest growing ethnic population.
APIs are not exempt from mental illness despite our model-minority image and the under-utilization of services. We have only to look at the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, the Oikos University shooting in Oakland, CA in 2012 and a series of suicides by distraught men in Los Angeles that resulted in the murder of estranged spouses as well as their children in 2011. These are the cries for help that make the news — when it is too late.
The American Psychiatric Association reports that of all ethnicities, APIs are the least likely to seek help for mental disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness paper on “Mental Health Issues among AAPI Communities” reports that suicide is the 5th leading cause of death among Asian Americans and 71% of Southeast Asians meet criteria for a major affective disorder such as depression. Asian American adolescent boys are twice as likely as whites to have been physically abused, Asian American women are at great risk for staying in abusive relationships and every seven hours an Asian American child is ARRESTED for a violent crime. These are all signs of emotional stress and behavioral issues in the API community.
Early on, the agency recognized that without language capacity, a large percentage of APIs cannot access services. PACS committed to hiring and training a diverse staff that would be culturally sensitive and linguistically competent. With a staff of over 50, PACS can provide services in Spanish and the following API languages: Cantonese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer (Cambodian), Korean, Mandarin, Samoan, Tagalog, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Urdu. From the moment a prospective client comes to our offices, we hope he or she will feel comfortable and welcomed.
Once a client accepts treatment, our goal is help the person back to recovery and reintegration into their community. This may include assisting with employment, finding housing or connecting with resources within other agencies as well as within their circle of family and friends. We believe the client can get better.
PACS recognizes there is strong stigma in the community, within one’s family and friends and by employers about mental illness. Focused and culturally appropriate outreach and engagement is critical to APIs overcoming the barriers to access services. Whether it is having material translated into language that matches the educational level of the reader or advocating for evaluation measures that are culturally relevant, PACS ensures that disparity is addressed.