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Striving for Mental
El Chicano Weekly - 8/20/2012
As the need for adequate mental health services continues to resurface, the state of California has initiated an effort to ensure everyone, especially underserved minority populations, have access to care.
V. Diane Woods, founding chairman and CEO of the African American Health Institute which is based in San Bernardino, was the lead investigator and director of the study for the African American community in California called "We Ain’t Crazy! Just Coping with a Crazy System: Pathways to Eliminating Mental Health Disparities in the Black Population."
Woods has a Doctorate of Public Health and specializes in community-based participatory research. She is also an Assistant Research Psychologist at UC Riverside and has been working to improve access to and the quality of health care for African Americans in San Bernardino County.
The California Department of Mental Health commissioned the California Reducing Disparities Project in 2010 contracting researchers to investigate the services to and needs of five populations in the state including Asian Americans, Latinos and Nati ve Americans.
The report will be officially completed in December but Woods and her team have released a draft report. She presented that report for the first time in Los Angeles on July 17.
"What the Department of Mental Health did was exceptional," said Woods. She said it is an unprecedented effort in the United States and has garnered the attention of other states and the federal government. It is unique because it is so comprehensive and is based on feedback directly from people in the community.
The report was funded through funds from the Mental Health Services Act, which has been giving counties funds to provide mental health services to underserved populations. The report investigated whether those funds are being used effectively and appropriately. It also explains what can be done differently.
"The state has created an excellent foundation," said Woods. "It is based on people saying what is meaningful for them."
The investigators examined whether counties made the African American population a priority with the Mental Health Act Funds and created targeted programs with the funds.
They found that only three of the 53 counties in the state have accomplished that. Those counties are Butte, Monterey, and San Bernardino counties.
A few other counties like Riverside and Los Angeles have taken steps but have not fully prepared for nor implemented programming.
The report recommends programs similar to the ones created in the above counties such as the African American Mental Health Coalition (AAMHC) in San Bernardino or the African American Family Cultural Center in Butte County.
Now that the report is nearly complete the group of investigators will be going around the state presenting the findings and instructing counties and stakeholders how to implement their recommendations.
’The report itself is critical," said Woods.
For more information about the California Reducing Disparities Project go to the African American Health Institute website at http://www.aahi-sbc.org or the California Department of Mental Health website at www.dmh.ca.gov.
V. Diane Woods presented the statewide report "We Ain’t Crazy! Just Coping with a Crazy System: Pathways to Eliminating Mental Health Disparities in the Black Population at a convention in Los Angeles on July 17.
Woods was the lead investigator for the African American portion of the California Reducing Disparities Project. She is also the CEO of the African American Health Institute in San Bernardino.