“Statistics show that most behavioral health care programs in California serve African Americans at a disproportionately higher rate than other ethnic communities, and these services are provided in extremely restrictive (often involuntary) settings such as hospitals and jails. In Alameda County, low-income African Americans with serious mental illness (and co-occurring disorders) represent 25% of the population, yet receive 40% of all mental health services. Despite this “over-provision” of services, across the lifespan, positive mental health outcomes among African Americans, in Alameda County and across the State, are inconsistent”¹. This health disparity is a clear indicator that African Americans are routinely underserved and inappropriately served in mental health care.
IN 2013-14, the Campaign selected the African-American community as its first ethnic community stakeholder group and convened the African American Action Team. The team was comprised of consumers, family members, community and faith-based organizations, and representatives from local government. In keeping with African-American’s rooted history of faith-based culture and respect for the oral tradition as a conveyer of values, the team focused largely on wellness through spirituality and the development of a speaker’s bureau of African American men.
Spirituality events in the community celebrated African-American culture through music, dance, fellowship, traditional foods, and art making. 19 members of the African American community also became trained WRAP (Wellness, Recovery, Action Plan) facilitators. A new organization, Black Men Speak (BMS), received its 501-c3 non-profit status through the Campaign. Its mission is to inform the community at large and the mental health community about the unique and critical issues concerning African-American men with mental health and substance abuse challenges. BMS continues to work toward a healing in the African-American community from the trauma of discriminatory practices, negative treatment, and isolation experienced in mental health treatment. The organization exists to create and to share the empowering messages of wellness, recovery, and freedom that African-Americans experience when they can help to define, create, and then receive the respect, compassion, support, and inclusion that they deserve.
¹Behavioral Health Care Services African American Utilization Report, 2011.
Learn More About this Work
In the latest edition of Kozi's Korner, Programs Outreach Coordinator Kozi Arrington discusses the importance of Juneteenth as a day of reflection, celebration, and commemoration.