SB COPE and AAHC Powers Up IE Services
Dianne Anderson // —
Mental health in the African American community usually comes down to a few key areas, social justice, stopping the school pipeline to prison, building up community leaders and building better social policy around education.
It’s all tightly connected.
Felicia Jones, associate director with the faith-based Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), said their group continues to work closely with stakeholders, parents and clergy to help shape policies on issues the community faces daily.
Engaging community members on critical policies, decision-making and weighing in on important community concerns is a big part of their mission. Lately, she is happy about advocacy with a mental health focus for their grassroots outreach.
She said that in these critical times, the African American Health Coalition has taken a lead in keeping important mental health policy at the forefront.
“Linda Hart [founder of the African American Health Coalition], has been a consistent champion for mental health, making sure that we’re paying attention and advocating where possible for mental health support,” she said.
Since COPE started working with local organizations around education policy, specifically school discipline, Jones said they have made some progress.
Many studies show that African American students, especially male students, are more likely to be suspended or expelled than other groups, even for the similar minor offenses. Students are also dealing with the aftermath of community violence, or violence in the home.
Jones said families and children are under pressure.
In working with AAHC, she hopes to erase the stigma of mental health services and resources, and bring more meaningful outreach into the schools.
“We’ve been trying to push as a collective, not just [with] COPE, for more partnerships for mental health in the school district so that making sure families have access to support services,” she said.
As part of the city school district, she said their coalition of parents, the District English Advisory Committee DELAC, and DAAAC, District African American Advisory Committee, remain passionate about starting an enrollment center with a resource center and health clinic. If approved by the school board, the hope is to get mental health resources on-site.
So far, she said San Bernardino City Unified School District has been making a good effort to build more alliances with mental health providers.
“But we definitely need a centralized place, a hub where families know where they can access that type of support, among other things,” Jones said.
She commended AAHC for keeping mental health and wellness in front of local policy makers.
“Mental wellness is going to even more critical in the days ahead, not just for those impacted at the school [North Park Elementary], but for families still trying to process the fears of safety for their children,” she said.
Linda Hart said alliances with the African American Health Coalition are expanding, along with badly needed funding to provide outreach. Recently, they are taking services as far as Yuca Valley. She said San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors pre-approved funding AAHC requested last year in partnership with Loma Linda University as the lead.
The funding comes down from the State under the Mental Health Services Act, where it awaits the Board of Supervisors final approval. She said it will help continue services, including referrals, and peer to peer help.
“Now, we’ll be able to provide a greater intensive care package,” she said. “There’s going to be new case management involved. It’s an opportunity to work one on one with individuals.”
AAHC Seeds for Change, coordinated by Michelle Pollard, also continues working with the Public Defenders Office, which comes out to community meetings for free record expungements. An outreach coordinator from San Bernardino Valley College always attend their events to distribute information on how to enroll in programs and courses.
In collaboration with a project of Loma Linda University School of Public Health, the program will also reach more of the community through their new San Bernardino County Medi-Cal Outreach, Retention, and Enrollment (SBC-MORE).
Hart said that AAHC has over 10,000 people across the county, including homeless individuals, homeless veterans, battered women, and other underserved groups with a wide mix of resources, post-traumatic stress and grief counseling, low cost or no cost services.
Not surprisingly, food and housing insecurity are closely related to mental health.
“A family with no food in the house, that’s a crisis. We try to offer an array of resources in the community to reduce the stress that families are facing. It’s not only violence, it could be not having enough money to pay utility bills, or gas to get to work.”
For those that need counseling or services, call AAHC at 909.880.1343