By Cynthia Levy
The Hill District is probably home to more churches than most communities in the city. On seemingly every corner there is one, if not two, churches waiting to meet the needs of the community.
So it’s no surprise that in a battle to defeat substance abuse, depression and other deadly behavioral problems in the community, the Center for Family Excellence has turned to the churches.
On Nov. 15, the Center for Family Excellence was given a $200,000 grant from the Staunton Farm Foundation to address issues of behavioral health in the Hill District by utilizing the close relationship that exists between its churches and the Black community.
“We spent three to four years doing surveys and in-depth interviews with pastors on what they are seeing at ground level,” said Dr. Jerome Taylor, executive director of the Center for Family Excellence.
Taylor plans on using the funds and the results of the pastoral survey to pinpoint persons who need mental health services and to get them better access to treatment.
He said in doing the research there were common themes of behavioral problems affecting Hill residents.
“Depression was No. !, No. 2 being stress, three anxiety, fourth was substance abuse, and mood swings and schizophrenia were also common,” Taylor said.
The surveys also reported that mental disorders in Blacks were accompanied by substance abuse 40 to 60 percent of the time.
The center is also working with the Cultural Policy Council, headed by former Hill District Bethel AME’s Rev. Dr. James McLemore. McLemore now serves as presiding elder at the church.
According to the center’s research, about 50 percent of Blacks belong to churches, giving the institutions unique insight and accessibility to the Black community.
“The church is the first point of contact. People will talk about it to the minister before they’ll tell anyone else about it,” McLemore said.
The initiative will also be training the pastors on how to sharpen their sensitivity to residents and church members who may be dealing with some of these issues.
“We will be holding planning sessions to talk about the issues and try to create a registry of resources,” Taylor said.
McLemore said health professionals will also be trained on how to address Blacks with problems given the stigma some Blacks have when it comes to dealing with health care officials.
The Hill District was chosen as the starting place for the initiative primarily because it’s where the center is located. He also said that while the behavioral issues facing residents are not exclusive to that community, they are dire.
“Sometimes people are so bombarded they seek a measure of relief through over-eating or risky sexual behavior. We have folks grappling with issues in our communities,” Taylor said.
The center hopes to begin providing services by Dec. 1 and plans on taking a more proactive approach to recruiting after receiving some clients and assessing the preliminary results.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
By Cynthia Levy
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