check my blog The CHE blog features articles that address different aspects of working towards achieving Health Equity. Check out the blog for stories of success, learning from failure, recommendations, new ideas, and other perspectives of people contributing towards our common goal.

African American Consumer Leadership Training Program by Nacole Smith, Associate, CiMH

http://jessicamccaw.com/wp-content/plugins/simple-facebook-twitter-widget/js/simple-facebook-page-root.js?ver=1.5.0 “We Aint Crazy, Just Working With A Crazy System!” was voraciously echoed by several African American mental health consumers and family members as they marched up the steps to the Sacramento Capitol on Friday, March 22, 2013. These dedicated and enthused community members were a part of a one-of-a-kind consumer led program called, the African American Consumer Leadership Training Program (AACLTP).

visit the website The goal of the AACLTP is to implement strategies and solutions on how to remedy persistent mental and behavioral health challenges by fostering advocacy and leadership skills among African American consumers and family members.

free dating sites miami The program educated 40 African Americans on how to advocate for mental health services, and equipped them with skills to train potential leaders to become advocates within their own community. The program taught participants how to address barriers within the local mental health system, develop a strategic action plan to identify solutions to those barriers, and lastly, prepare the community on how to speak with legislatures and policy makers.

The AACLTP was recommended as a community-defined strategy from the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) African American Report, which can be found at http://www.dmh.ca.gov/Multicultural_Services/CRDP.asp#updates. Stipends, travel, food and hotel accommodations were all paid for by the California Institute for Mental Health (CiMH), and the program ran from September 2012 – March 2013.

Below is a testimonial from a planning team member, person living with mental illness, and a participant in the program.

“The program made me feel satisfied, inspired and accomplished! I was given the skills to complete my Smash Solutions Strategic Action Plan for my people that live in my Community.”


Working Together to Achieve Whole Health Equity

There are Californians striving tirelessly to promote health equity for our diverse communities. Many have worked in the field of physical health to understand and address health disparities, and others in the field of behavioral health. But now that we have parity legislation requiring equal insurance coverage for behavioral health and physical health, we have an opportunity to address parity in attention to health disparities in both fields. At a time of increased attention to the integration of primary care and behavioral health, we should push for integration of health equity efforts.

The advances and strategies used in one field can help inform the other. For instance, the physical health field has made advances in developing strategies for measuring and tracking disparities that could benefit behavioral health. Certainly in integrated programs the same data collection standards and methods could be applied in both areas. For example, the new data collection standards on race, ethnicity, language, and disability developed by the Department of Health and Human Services as required by the Affordable Care Act should be supported and rolled out equally for serving people with physical and behavioral health concerns.

The behavioral health field in California has also made advances in addressing disparities, more recently through the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) and Innovation (INN) components of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Several counties have recognized the need to turn to diverse communities and rely on them as the experts in helping prevent mental illness and promote wellness in their own community. This support for community-driven strategies and reliance on community-based organizations can be incorporated into integrated care as well. Los Angeles County, for example, is funding INN projects that test out culturally-specific, community-developed models of integration.

Integrated care is also an approach that fits better with various cultural worldviews. Some communities do not see a clear distinction between mental and physical health, or substance use problems and spiritual ailments. Taking a whole health approach is in itself a key strategy for addressing health disparities that can be effective in various diverse communities.

Now more than ever, let’s seize the opportunity to work together to achieve health equity, recognizing that health involves whole health and that we can be more effective by uniting our efforts.

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