July is Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Awareness Month. It was formally recognized in 2008 as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It is meant to bring awareness to the challenges that BIPOC individuals face in regard to mental illness.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to witness Governor Laura Kelly sign HB 2208, a historic piece of legislation establishing Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) in the state of Kansas. This is a big moment.
Wyandotte County is a wonderfully diverse community. In order to be able to serve such a diverse community, we have to be aware of the people, places and events that shaped our community and work to understand how this history affects our community today – the triumphs and the traumas.
The country is in mourning – again. This time over the murders of eight people in Atlanta and the murders of ten in Boulder. For those in the Asian community, the murders in Atlanta just brought to national attention what you likely already knew.
We serve a community that has been and continues to be profoundly impacted by trauma. A 2014 survey showed that 64% of adults in Wyandotte County report one or more Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) in their lifetime compared to 55% of adults in Kansas. ACEs can take many forms, including childhood abuse and neglect, imprisonment of a parent, and substance abuse and mental illness in the household. We, as an organization, recognize the lasting impacts that individual and community trauma have on many of the individuals who come through our doors. It is on us to make sure that we can provide an environment that allows for healing.
Wyandot Behavioral Health Network has been awarded a nearly $4 million Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC) grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The grant funding will be split between two years and is the largest direct grant that Wyandot BHN has received in the last 30 years.
The new year is here. 2021 has arrived. But much to our dismay, the early days of 2021 bear a striking resemblance to the final nine months of 2020. We are still in the throes of COVID-19. Our country is still dealing with significant political tension and social injustice. While we are carrying traumas from 2020 with us into 2021, we are also bringing with us the valuable lessons we’ve learned over the past year. And now is our opportunity to make sure our children learn many of those same lessons…lessons in hope, flexibility and resilience.
As a child growing up in south Kansas City, Missouri, I would make periodic trips to The Plaza with my family. When we neared Troost Avenue, the historic dividing line between Black and White Kansas City, my father would say, “Lock your doors. We’re in enemy territory.”
I never heard my father use a racist epithet or on any other occasion disparage Black people. I’m sure if someone had told him that his words were racist, he would have been taken aback. But repeated as often as they were, his words left a racist scar in my heart. They shaped my perception of the world around me. I should be afraid of the people who lived east of Troost. Worse, I should see them as my “enemies.”
We recently wrapped up our fiscal year and are now preparing for our annual report. When I think back over the past year, it’s hard to remember much of anything that happened prior to March. Our lives have changed so much since then. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been about six months since the stay-at-home order went into effect in Kansas City.