Mental Health Conference Promotes Engaging and Empowering Communities

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas addresses 1200 attendees at the 2019 African American Mental Health Conference on February 28, 2019. All photos by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Dr. Altha J. Stewart, the first black woman president of the American Psychiatric Association.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas made opening remarks to a packed room of 1,200 people attending the 2019 African American Mental Health Conference held at the Convention Center in Los Angeles.  Every year, the conference brings together mental health and allied professionals, policy makers, consumers and stakeholders to improve awareness regarding mental health issues and its impact on families and communities. This year’s conference, hosted by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health with the goal of “Engaging and Empowering Communities through Education, Advocacy, and Action,” featured  keynote addresses by Altha J. Stewart, M.D. and Bryant T. Marks, Sr., Ph.D., two internationally renowned scholars and practitioners in the field of mental health and social issues that concern African Americans.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ remarks to the 1,200 attendees are below:

“Our theme today is “Engaging and Empowering Communities through Education, Advocacy, and Action.” As you know, the Empowerment Congress is an experiment in civic engagement that I started many years ago. Together, we have harnessed community advocacy and activism to influence government policy on a range of complex issues – so engaging and empowering communities is a good thing!

“We had the 27th annual Empowerment Congress Summit at Charles R. Drew University this year – and we saw the physical manifestation of empowerment and engagement transforming communities. Part of the ongoing transformation of communities includes reinvigorating the Second District with state-of-the-art spaces designed for mental health recovery, wellbeing and reintegration including:

  • Behavioral Health Center: Repurposing the old MLK hospital into a first-of-its-kind interdepartmental project – designed to supply the complete arc of restorative care to promote personal recovery and community reintegration;
  • Wellbeing Center: Creating interdisciplinary, trauma-informed responses to ensure the safety and health of kids and families involved in the Child Welfare system;

    (left to right) LA County Department of Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan E. Sherin, LA County Mental Health Commissioner with Lived Experience Reba Stevens, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

  • Women’s Reintegration: Doubling down investments in justice-involved women who need specialized services to heal after incarceration, and opportunities to build new futures for themselves and their families;
  • CDU Psychiatric Residency Program: Creating a robust pipeline of the best and brightest doctors who will lift up and lead their own neighborhoods and DMH communities; and
  • DMH Headquarters: The ground-breaking took place in October – a capstone project incorporating a peer-run drop-in center – showcasing DMH values inside and out!

“Since we are talking about African American mental health, I should mention the public launch of a new report that examined homelessness among African Americans. Everyone should read the report and its 67 recommendations.

“If our region is to prosper, it is not only a moral mandate, it is an absolute economic imperative that all who call Los Angeles home are able to attain their full measure of dignity, self-worth and self-determination. Let’s continue to engage and empower each other and remember that Each Mind Matters and “No one is well until we are all well.”