San Bernardino: We Ain’t Crazy! Just Coping with a Crazy System
“It is unpleasant to admit, but many African Americans do not receive appropriate mental health services, even when they go to places that are suppose to help them. Why is that?” reports Dr. V. Diane Woods. Dr.P.H.
San Bernardino County – All people in California suffer from not receiving mental health services in a timely manner. Some people suffer more than others, especially if you are poor, less educated, and do not know what to do or where to go.
“In addition, having a mental issue is embarrassing. Most people do not recognize when they need help, and when they do, most people do not feel comfortable in asking for help with a mental issue,” said Dr. V. Diane Woods, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., B.S.N., president of the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC).
Dr. Woods is the principle investigator, for a statewide team of Black strategic planning workgroup members tasked to developed a major statewide policy initiative to improve access and quality of care, as well as increase positive outcomes for historically underserved communities and ethnic and cultural population groups.
The research was contracted to AAHI-SBC through The California Department of Mental Health (DMH), in partnership with the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) and funded by the Mental Health Service Act, Prop 63.
AAHI-SBC is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 grassroots community-based organization. It was awarded the $411,052 contract to conduct the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) for the African American population. Funds were made possible by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) of 2004. The contract period was for two years, from March 1, 2010 to February 29, 2012.
This statewide initiative was called the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP), and focused on five (5) populations that have the largest number of underserved individuals. Those populations were:
· African Americans
· Asian/Pacific Islanders
· Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ)
· Native Americans
When it comes to African Americans and mental health issues in California, Helen B. Rucker probably explains it best.
“I should have been in counseling a long time ago,’’ says Rucker, a 79-year-old Monterey County community activist and county school board member about California’s fragmented mental health system supporting African Americans. “I wish I had access to talk to someone about how I feel. But, there has never been anyone I could talk to who understood what I was going through.”
Rucker epitomizes what was unraveled during a two-year study looking at mental health issues in ethnic and cultural populations in California.
“It is unpleasant to admit, but some people do not receive appropriate services, even when they go to places that are suppose to help them. Why is that? Why are some people not understood? California’s African American residents were interviewed and given the opportunity to share their real experiences with getting help with mental issues,” said Dr. Woods.
“We Ain’t Crazy! Just Coping with a Crazy System: Pathways to Eliminating Mental Health Disparities in the Black Population,” is the comprehensive report of this 2-year long African American study that sought to answer one major question: What are community practices Black people believe would help them have good mental health? As well as, how are mental issues prevented from occurring in Black people?”
“There were 1,195 individuals who participated in the African American study. Community-based participatory research methods were used that included 15 key informant interviews, 35 focus group meetings, 43 one-on-one interviews, 635 surveys, 5 case studies, 6 small group meetings and 10 public meetings. Individuals participated from over 30 California counties,” said Dr. V. Diane Woods, the Project Director and lead investigator.
The investigation found that while California has a mental health system in place, its fragmented delivery system exposes African Americans to inappropriate and or inadequate diagnoses, and initiates a high rate of involuntary commitments within this population. Many individuals are placed on medications that may not help their condition but make it worse. And, many African Americans state they do not have prevention services or programs in their communities. If prevention services are there, they are not visible or accessible to the African American population.
Overwhelmingly, Blacks stated they were not properly assessed, said Dr. Woods. That diagnoses given were not correct, which caused the treatment and medications given inappropriate. People felt the medication made them “act crazy.” A major concern was a lack of Black providers. People felt providers seen did not understand their experiences and the psychological and emotional impact on their physical and mental health.
“During the study, it was discovered that there are community-based programs and projects that help African Americans have balanced lives and help them to learn how to cope with threatening mental issues. However, African Americans are not aware of these community programs and projects, or where to find an African American mental health provider; or early signs of mental issues,” said Dr. Woods.
The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County was awarded the State contract to conduct the 2-year long study. They will release a full report as well as FREE resources during a statewide Town Hall meeting, a workshop and press conference on Tuesday July 17, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel. The press conference is at 1:00 p.m.
This is a PUBLIC meeting. All are invited to attend. The meeting is FREE and no prior reservation is needed. For more information call (909) 880-2600, or Dr. Woods at (951) 201-4364.
The shocking complete report will be distributed at the July 17th meeting. California African American state Assemblymembers, Senators and Congressional representatives are invited to attend.
Dr. Woods is an experienced public health community-based participatory researcher and administrator in acute and non-acute clinical healthcare, health education and counseling.
About The African American Health Institute (AAHI)
The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County, is a non-profit 501c3 grassroots community-based organization. It was awarded a $411,052 contract to conduct the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) for the African American population. Funds were made possible by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) of 2004. Contract period was for two years, from March 1, 2010 to February 29, 2012.
The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County can be reached at P.O. Box 12083, San Bernardino, CA 92423 or by calling (909) 880-2600, or visit their website at www.AAHI-SBC.org.