While a situation like the Virginia Tech shootings would involve law enforcement first, the ACCESS Center has a mobile response team of mental health experts ready 24 hours a day that would help evaluate an evolving volatile scenario like that, Shah said. Clinicians, psychologists and physicians at the center coordinate the appropriate response to an event. In 2006, the center fielded 265,000 calls. Elsie Hatom, a psychiatric technician, said the center had been “very busy” recently with teachers calling, unsure how to handle a given situation. “We’re the dispatchers,” Hatom said. “We have our finger on the pulse of the whole county.” Hatom, who has worked at the center since 1995, said people have become “a lot more anxious on a lot of different levels” since she started 12 years ago. Ken Kondo, a health department spokesman, said Los Angeles County oversees the largest network of mental health programs, services, caseloads and clinics in the world. He said the reason is California’s 2004 Mental Health Services Act. “Ours is a recovery model as opposed to being symptom-oriented,” Kondo said. “The world is looking at us as a model.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! In hindsight, much has been written on the supposed warning signs shown by Seung-Hui Cho – the 23-year-old Virginia Tech shooter – prior to the incident. “People are looking at every little thing and perhaps over-interpreting things in some cases right now,” Shah said. “But it’s our job to check all of them out, because we don’t know.” To avoid a rampage like Cho’s, Dr. Lewis Webb, a psychologist for the department, said county officials put a priority on prevention and follow-up, such as taking threats seriously and making sure patients take any necessary medication. Shah said when a person threatens suicide or homicide, age, gender and ethnicity are all considered in creating a psychological profile. Males between the ages of 14 and 25 are most likely to engage in a “Virginia Tech-type incident,” with white males the highest risk group, he said. “So we look at the person’s history to evaluate if it’s suicidal or homicidal in nature,” Shah said. “Kids that age are often hypersensitive to rejection and overreact under that stress.” NORWALK – A spike in “copycat” calls since the Virginia Tech massacre has left emergency responders in the Los Angeles area jittery as they cope with nervous teachers, parents and mental health workers. At the ACCESS Center in Norwalk – the hot line center and “brain stem” of the county’s mental health system – supervising clinician Sanjay Shah said calls from schools jumped by at least 15 percent in the past few weeks. They have included everything from teachers calling about a student’s violent talk to parents worried about their child’s gory drawings. One mother called after hearing her son tell a friend, “Someone is going to die” at his school.