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Community Health Equity Program opens doors


The mental health crisis in America is a grade A problem that has been unsolved and thoroughly mishandled, according to some. Whether it’s from lack of resources, lack of trust, or lack of effort, America’s mental health crisis has affected and claimed the lives of many people, and devastated others mentally and/or physically.

The Black community has felt the effects of all of the issues plaguing Americans who deal with mental health issues and is at a severe disadvantage because of its past relationship with the medical community and other factors. Undoubtedly there are myriad health disparities for Blacks compared to other communities.

Fortunately, many health crisis workers and leaders like Rayshell Chambers think the new 988 hotlines will have a vital role in helping people with mental health issues.

“I believe this is a game changer for  frontline mental health providers as I see the rawness of this crisis and understand that the police aren’t best suited to handle people with mental health issues.” Chambers said. “I was dealing with a woman who was having some challenges and needed help, so I called the crisis line and asked them to send help before they sent the police. But the police showed up and arrested the woman without her committing a crime, which then sent her on a roller coaster of emotions that I was trying to avoid. This Hotline will now give them somebody better suited to deal with crisis individuals.”

Chambers is the co-executive director at Painted Brain, a peer-run mental health organization, and was appointed to California’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission. She is also part of the Community Health Equity Alliance, which aims to help people become better connected with helpful resources and receive the proper treatment and medical aid.

“We are a peer network that works with other medical facilities to provide resources for mental health patients and medical resources for Black adults in California. Our coalition brings different health organizations together to better support the community, and educate people on mental health.” Chambers said.

Currently, California ranks 15th out of 50 states in adult prevalence of mental illness and 12th in mental health workforce availability. California ranks 49th in adults with mental illness who did not receive treatment and 34th in access to care. In California, on average, 65 percent of adults with mental health issues do not receive treatment.

Chambers credits California’s low ranking to a variety of reasons, including health disparities in the Black community; lack of trust in the medical community; mishandling of funding; insurance acceptance issues; and lack of equity in medical centers in the Black community.

“Of course, people believe that structural racism impacts individuals of color, and the stigma is that they are the only ones with issues accessing care, and investment in community mental health facilities,” Chambers said, noting that past medical history —  like the Tuskegee experiments — place a distrust between the Black community and the medical community.

“Look at what happened with the covid vaccine,” she added. “I was one of the first people to get it, and I made sure to go back to the community and tell people it’s safe. We also don’t have many people that look like us that can bridge the trust and build the trust factor with us, as they know the difficulties we face. This is why we need the Community Health Equity Program, as it highlights, uplifts, and informs our community about the medical community and helps ease the uncertainty.”

If you or anybody you know is suffering from mental health issues, seek help by visiting painted or call the new national mental health crisis hotline at 988.

Our Weekly coverage of local news in Los Angeles County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.