The US Department of Health has awarded the New Orleans Alliance $1.9 million over two years to provide more behavioral health services to young people in the city.
The money will go to the New Orleans Mental Health Collaborative, a team created last September by the New Orleans City Council of health care providers, government agencies, nonprofits and other community groups tasked with working together to help improve access to mental health care in the city.
Children and teens in New Orleans experience high rates of bereavement, violence, and other traumatic events. This is especially true of black youth who are more likely to grow up in lower-income neighborhoods due to systemic racism. Mental health care and other resources are needed both inside and outside schools Far exceeded available resources and programming.
in 2019 Tulane University study85% of New Orleans public schools report that more than a quarter of their students have behavioral health needs, and more than half of those schools (62%) said they cannot meet those needs due to a lack of resources.
“When one of my children experienced a mental health crisis, even with all our resources, we ended up in the emergency room,” said Adam Anderson, CEO of Avondale Global Gateway/T. Parker Host, a company in the Mental Health Collaborative.
Even when resources are available, they are not always accessible to those who need them.
“To maximize our ability to serve our citizens, we must coordinate efforts across all providers. Our future well-being depends on a strong foundation of easily accessible care.”
With federal funding, the collaborative, led by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, will focus on providing behavioral health resources to poor youth and families who have experienced mass trauma and community violence.
A portion of the money will also go to Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, First Aid Mental Health Association, and the Compassionate Schools Coalition, which will help train people who work with children in trauma-informed care.
Charlotte Cunliffe, president of the New Orleans Children’s Bureau, said the organization will use the money to help provide “evidence-based counseling on site grief and trauma” at schools and other agencies that work with children and teens.
To address the collective trauma communities in New Orleans encounter, several groups will also work together to create peer programs where young people can connect and support each other.
“Trauma and other mental health conditions are often understood and responded to on an individual level,” a spokesperson for the Compassionate Schools Alliance said in a statement. “However, we know that those individual experiences are intertwined in the context of collective trauma.”
Other details about specific projects and programs still need to be ironed out. A community advisory board will oversee the sub-grants process to determine how much money each group will receive and for what purposes they will be able to use the money.
The Mental Health Collaborative Steering Committee is chaired by Board Member Joe Giarusso and Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham, Executive Director and Medical Officer for the Metropolitan District of Human Services. New Orleans Department of Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avigno, NOLA Public Schools Administrator Avis Williams and mental health experts from Children’s Hospital, New Orleans East Hospital and others will also be on the panel.
“It is clear that New Orleans needs ongoing care for children, adults and those affected by trauma,” Giarusso said.