Restoration reaffirms its commitment to Mental Health on #MentalHealthAwarenessDay

by Ashima Gandhi

ThriveNYC, an initiative from the de Blasio administration, recognizes that one in five New Yorkers experience a mental health disorder. Such mental health conditions occur irrespective of ones gender, race, or color. However, cultural stigma, access, and even diagnosis can be heavily influenced by background and identity. In 2016, Restoration was among 14 community organizations selected to partner with mental health providers with the mission of training staff, as well as, improving access through the Connections to Care (C2C) program. Restoration is partnering with Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) who will conduct training for Restoration’s Economic Solutions Center (ESC) staff. Shimonah Israel, Program Manager at ESC, shared her thoughts on the upcoming developments of the C2C program.

Israel starts off by sharing that July is National Minority Mental Awareness Month and stresses that minority communities don’t often pay attention to mental health needs. “We’re a population that needs it but it is often overlooked.” Israel sees C2C as an easy transition for ESC clients, who are often visiting for financial counseling, but neglect to consider the mental health component of financial stress. “We want to take a holistic approach while we continue to address the barriers – providing case support and food stamps, among other services, but recognizing that there is a wellness and mental health component.”

Israel describes the normalization of trauma within the minority community, “We suffer from so many different things. I know someone who has lost a parent, has a child with autism, is unemployed, and whose husband was arrested. In any other demographic, any one of those would be reason enough to seek counseling. Finding an outlet can be challenging and sometimes where substance abuse and other things come into play as a means of coping. We are doing ourselves a disservice by not formally addressing it with someone who is trained.”

BCS trains ESC staff to recognize those clients who may need to be connected to a mental health provider. Israel continues, “Initially we were screening people for substance abuse and depression, but as a workforce development organization, we felt like the process would lead to high false negatives.” For example, clients who look to the ESC for employment would have a harder time confessing to potential addictions since they would assume that would work against their job search. Now, ESC is screening for general anxiety and stress and has since captured 80% of the people who are more comfortable in sharing they suffer from stress. As a result, people who wouldn’t normally seek mental health are now considering it an important part of their overall wellness.

With a year elapsed in the C2C program, ESC has made progress and highlighted their challenges and opportunities. Recently, Israel and her team submitted a new operational plan that outlines new initiatives and efforts for the program. The plan covers everything from implementing new screeners to developing stress management workshops. ESC is looking to identify nearby health providers for referrals. Fostering close relationships with those providers enables ESC to do a “warm handoff”, Israel explains, “which does more than offer a place to go: establishes a relationship with one person who is willing to receive on our behalf, ensuring we are knowledgeable about the eligibility of our clients and the requirements of our provider.” This would hopefully be more effective and encouraging for ESC clients to receive the care that they need. Israel ends with establishing the importance of mental wellness, “as a priority within the minority community that we shouldn’t trivialize or normalize and at the very minimum refer them to the ESC.

If you are interested in learning more about Mental Health resources that Restoration has for mental health and awareness please contact our Economic Solution Center (718) 636-6994 or walk in