The Stockton community mobilizes to reduce mental health disparities for the city’s most vulnerable population.
Advocates held the Stockton Reducing Disparities Public Hearing on December 11th 2018 from 10 AM- 3 PM at the historic Stockton Masonic Temple to showcase programs that reduce stigma for mental health and to bolster cultural pride among vulnerable population. Attendees also strategized how different stakeholders and community leaders should work together to reduce mental health disparities.
Stockton has gained much media attention since the city rolled out a pilot Universal Basic Income (UBI) in 2018, a bold program proposed by Stockton’s 27-year old mayor Michael Tubbs. This represents tremendous progress due to a deep economic and health disparities that exist even within the city, with Stockton City South underperforming compared to Stockton City North. Even with the progress the city has achieved, many still face barriers in accessing quality health care in Stockton and the greater San Joaquin County, especially for communities of color and LGBTQ population.
California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) partnered with Fathers & Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ), Little Manila Rising, San Joaquin Pride Center, Reinvent South Stockton Coalition (RSSC), and Sow-A-Seed Community Foundation to mobilize mental health stakeholders, residents, and other consumer groups to discuss how to end mental health disparities in Stockton. Over 70+ attendees shared challenges about accessing quality mental health services for the most vulnerable individuals in Stockton. The National Compadres Network kicked off the event with a spiritual grounding practice, where they acknowledged the entire spectrum of a human life and the inter-connectedness of young people and elders. This practice grounded our collective responsibility to take care of each other’s well-being.
CPEHN prepared a San Joaquin County specific disparities data, focusing on key economic and community health indicators. The findings confirmed what residents, advocates and countless other community members already know: presentation showed alarming disparities across the board.
Data shows that there is a provider shortage in San Joaquin County, compared to California, which impacts both access and quality of mental health services. This may result in longer waitlists, fewer culturally and linguistically appropriate providers, or clinicians with overwhelming number of clients. When considering psychological distress caused by poverty, the disparities between North and South Stockton, and the shortage of mental health workforce, governmental institutions across different levels have the responsibility to leverage resources to invest in key areas to improve health of residents and to advance equity. Sammy Nunez, the Executive Director of FFSJ shared, “We came together because there is a solution to the disparities. We are who we’ve been waiting for.”
Healing centered programs, cities, and counties as solution and MHSA as an opportunity to support these programs
The All Stars Alliance Non-Profits, comprised of FFSJ, Little Manila Rising, San Joaquin Pride Center, Reinvent South Stockton Coalition (RSSC), and Sow-A- Seed Community Foundation, each presented their programs and shared success stories. This collective represents an organization of progressive community-based organizations working in solidarity with various disadvantaged communities in San Joaquin County. They started meeting together informally and eventually developed a collaborative effort to reduce cultural barriers for communities of color and LGBTQ+ communities. For example, Little Manila Rising uses ethnic studies to instill cultural identity among Filipino youth as a vehicle to build resilience and pride. Dillon Delvo, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Little Manila Rising, attributed much of mental health issues to the result of colonization of our communities. He stated, “Social justice is a sign of the actual decolonization of our communities. It means marginalized people find their voice and use their power to transform themselves and their community.”
This panel also spoke of the importance in steady and consistent stream of funding for these vital programs, through funding source such as the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). In May of 2018, the state auditor released a report showing millions of dollars of MHSA funds unspent, accumulating interests in Countys’ reserves. San Joaquin County also accrued millions of unspent dollars that could be used to fund these programs.
Panelists also presented strategies to provide trauma-informed behavioral health services to their respective communities in a variety of settings and modalities. Because these organizations spent many years nurturing trust within their respective community, their collective efforts provide a unique opportunity to address issues of intersectionality, cultural competency, and reducing the cultural stigma of mental health issues while lifting up the historically rooted healing methods and wisdom of the community they serve.
Strategies for moving forward
Attendees shared the urgency in systems-level change to actually reduce mental health disparities for Stockton’s most vulnerable. They urged institutions such as Stockton City government and the San Joaquin Behavioral Health Services to work with community based organizations and other community leaders to fully embrace a trauma-informed approach to forming partnerships. Nicholas Hatten, the Executive Director of San Joaquin Pride Center, hopes that San Joaquin’s Behavioral Health Services will participate in these discussions as they spend the next year drafting pledges and policy commitments to make our community one of the first (and the largest) areas to become fully invested trauma informed community.