Victory Starts Now Provides Mental Health Treatment And Other Services in LA

Jun 26, 2024

Victory Starts Now (VSN) was established by Stinson, who got a chance to work in the Los Angeles Public Defenders Office, while doing an externship during law school.

A revolutionary nonprofit is finding success by helping the incarcerated and those deemed not competent to stand trial turn their lives around and live productive lives. Victory Starts Now (VSN) in Los Angeles is now helping up to 400 clients at a time in 20 residential treatment centers that not only put a roof over their heads but offer them the services they need to reintegrate back into society e.g., mental health treatment, group sessions, art therapy and legal counseling to help them deal with the fallout of their offenses.

One client who is about to graduate from the program is Angel Villareal who is successfully being treated for schizophrenia and is involved in many of VSN’s other programs. When he was 19, he began hearing voices and exhibiting such bizarre behavior that his family kicked him out, wrongly assuming that he was using illicit drugs.

His circumstance is not unusual. The Nat’l Institutes of Health report that roughly 50% of all lifetime mental disorders start by the mid-teens and 75% by the mid-20s. If the signs aren’t recognized early enough and treated in a timely manner, the results can be catastrophic.

Villareal, now 21, says his problems worsened after he became homeless. He got into an altercation that landed him in jail.

“I got into some legal trouble and was losing hope until I learned about Victory Starts Now and the good work they were doing for others in my position,” he says. “I have been in treatment for two years now and have reunited with my family who finally came to learn that I wasn’t on drugs but had mental health issues.”

Oftentimes offenders like Villareal are incarcerated and forced to pay for their crimes. Instead, he was “rescued” by VSN and has plans to attend cosmetology school with hopes of becoming a barber.

“Angel’s story is an important one to tell in that it shines a spotlight on the complex and oft-misunderstood world of mental illness, how it’s easy to misinterpret behaviors caused by mental disorders with those induced by drugs/alcohol, how some cultures still regard mental illness as a weakness instead of a treatable disease and how untreated mental illness can lead to homelessness,” says VSN founder and Executive Director Viktoriya Stinson. “I want to make programs like VSN more ubiquitous as they are better alternatives to locking up salvageable individuals and throwing away the key.”

Victory Starts Now (VSN) was established by Stinson, who got a chance to work in the Los Angeles Public Defenders Office, while doing an externship during law school. During that time, she witnessed, firsthand, the futility of the justice system that saw those committing crimes getting trapped in a revolving door, unable to break the cycle. Not content to sit idly by, she developed the program based on a foundation of helping clients develop a sense of self-worth, self-respect and dignity. Instead of releasing potential re-offenders, VSN’s goal is reintegrating productive citizens back into society. Visit


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