The right frame of mind
Pasadena Officer Victor Cass leads National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter
By André Coleman 01/02/2014
Veteran Pasadena police Officer and occasional Pasadena Weekly columnist Victor Cass has been elected president of the San Gabriel Valley chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Cass, a longtime mental health advocate, previously worked on the department’s Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation (HOPE) team and helped found the Pasadena Mental Health Advisory Committee, an organization he led from 2008 to 2011.
“I feel fortunate to have a talented and experienced NAMI-SGV board of directors and I look forward to working with them and continuing the good work being done by NAMI in providing education and support to the families impacted by mental illness in the San Gabriel Valley,” Cass said. “We’re very interested in raising the community awareness about NAMI and all of our programs, as well as expanding our community partnerships.”
NAMI-SGV is now the official sponsor of Pasadena Mental Health Day.
Cass told the Weekly that he has already met with Pasadena Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson, a big supporter of mental health awareness, in order to find creative ways of raising awareness, de-stigmatizing sufferers and delivering services to those living with mental illness and their families.
A 21-year veteran of the Police Department and a graduate of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) Academy, Cass grew up in Pasadena, graduating from John Muir High School in 1996. He later graduated with honors from Art Center College of Design and received his master’s degree from American Military University.
Cass is the author of “Pasadena Police Department: A Photohistory, 1877-2000,” “Love, Death, and Other War Stories” and the novel “Telenovela.” Along with the Weekly, Cass’ work has also appeared in Arroyo Monthly magazine, the Pasadena Star-News and the Mexican War Journal newsletter.
His mother Thelma Reyna — who taught English at Pasadena High School and served as principal of South Pasadena Unified School District — is the author of the award-winning books “The Heavens Weep For Us,” “Breath & Bone” and “Hearts in Common.”
Cass credits his tour on the Police Department’s mental health crisis team, along with his learning more about two of his grandparents’ and an aunt’s struggles with mental illness, for boosting his own interest in the mental health field.
NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots, volunteer, nonprofit mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of millions of Americans affected by mental illness. With approximately 320 members, NAMI-San Gabriel Valley is the fourth largest NAMI affiliate in Los Angeles County.