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2018 – The Year in Review

NEW ORLEANS DATA NEWS WEEKLY — 2018 was an unprecedented year, filled with turmoil, intrigue, disbelief and disturbing news headlines that dominated conversations across the country.

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By Data News Weekly Staff

2018 was an unprecedented year, filled with turmoil, intrigue, disbelief and disturbing news headlines that dominated conversations across the country.  For many, the actions and statements of President Donald Trump and his administration, have caused sleepless nights and anxiety as citizens hold their breath, waiting for the next shoe to drop; and for some sort of resolution to what once seemed unimaginable.  As we move into 2019, the chaos has continued, and the nation continues to hold it’s breath as we continue to experience the saga of the Trump Administration.

However, on the brighter side, instead of sitting idly by, the citizens of the United States, mounted a movement.  Not content to sit it out or throw in the towel, millions of voters, across the country, found their voices, and moved in masse to the polls during the 2018 Mid-Term elections.  The results were resounding as the nation moved to overturn the unified Republican government that was. And, instead, elected  a Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives, poised to return oversight and accountability to the government.

2018 indeed, was a chaotic and head-spinning year, one that will undoubtedly go down in history as an unprecedented one, and here at Data News Weekly, we focused on our local as well as national stories that made a difference.  New Orleans, our home, is a place filled with stories of community, of families and of good and interesting stories.  Stories that do not always make the mainstream news headlines.  It is our mission, to bring these stories to our readers, to uplift, enlighten and inform our city, and yes, to educate our fellow New Orleanians, on the important work being done in our city, celebrations of our unique and storied culture, and important decisions we all are charged with making in the pursuit of a better and more equatable New Orleans.  Election decisions, city business, justice and education.  These are the stories that made up the year in Data News Weekly, because these are the things that made up the year, 2018, in New Orleans.  – Enjoy.

Jan 13

Leah Chase 
Queen of Creole Cuisine Celebrates 95th Birthday
Honoring a Great New Orleanian

The City of New Orleans is a place with a rich and colorful history that’s spanned 300 years. One of those who have contributed to the legacy of this Great Historical City is the Queen of Creole Cuisine, Leah Chase, who recently celebrated her 95th birthday on January 6, 2018 at the Downtown Hyatt Regency New Orleans surrounded by family, friends, leaders from the civic and business community and other well-wishers. The proceeds from the gala supports the Edgar “Dooky” Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation. That’s dedicated to cultivate and support historically disenfranchised organizations by making significant contributions to education, cultural arts and social justice. Data News was at this amazing event honoring one of our local treasures that’s given the gift of our culture, flavor and the recipe for a great and inspiring life and sharing it with the world.

New Orleans: A House Divided Affordable Housing Crisis Threatens Future of New Orleans
Putting Housing as Top Priority First is Key to Full Recovery for New Orleans

Andreanecia Morris, President of the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA) is one of many who is on the frontlines of the fight for fair housing in New Orleans. Morris is leading the Housing First Campaign that’s goal is to secure the commitment of 80,000 registered voters to support GNOHA’s advocacy efforts and the implementation of the 10-Year HousingNOLA Plan.  That can ensure that city leaders will prioritize safe, affordable, healthy housing for all in New Orleans.  They are asking people to sign up and get involved and support candidates and hold elected officials accountable who will help residents stay in our neighborhoods and make them better; help citizens of New Orleans live close to good jobs and use tax dollars collected to make communities strong.  Speaking of the Housing First Campaign she says, “We are pushing our Housing First Campaign because every time we vote or make a decision you have to put housing first. That doesn’t mean ignoring the other issues; the City Council is working to approve a Masterplan and we have made suggestions and the one we are going back and forth about is giving people a chance to live in neighborhoods that are closer to where they work that are affordable. We are in the greatest housing crisis post-Katrina as it relates to affordable housing.”

Celebrating 300 Years Inside Black Mardi Gras 
New Orleans: A Colorful History
As we are in the 300th Anniversary of New Orleans, with its rich and colorful history; it is one where the African influence is seen in everything from the food, music, dance and culture. It is everywhere you look and is the heartbeat that continues to pump the blood through the veins of the City keeping it alive.

The Crescent City has just finished the Carnival Season, with its many balls and parades bringing people from across the globe to explore the spectacle and splendor that is the Big Easy.

Black Mardi Gras
The Black Traditions of Mardi Gras, which for a long time, was unknown to those outside of the African-American Community have come to the forefront are now being discovered by others and given their true place and being recognized.

We at Data News Weekly would like to briefly explore some of these great traditions.

Zulu Parade

They marched in Mardi Gras as early as 1901 but made their first appearance as the Zulus in 1909. Their original routes were through the Black neighborhoods of New Orleans. Today they have a route that goes through both African-American and the traditional route along St. Charles Ave. where their beads and customized painted coconuts are highly sought after by people of all races.

Baby Dolls
As part of the Mardi Gras Celebration in New Orleans, the Baby Dolls were formed in 1912. The Baby Dolls were a group started in an area outside the legal red-light district called (Black) Storyville.

 Throughout the years, the women expanded their group, possibly becoming the first women’s organization in the Mardi Gras celebration. Their styles then varied, even being dressed as actual babies, or baby dolls, depending on the group.

Black Masking Tradition (Mardi Gras Indians)

The Black Masking Tradition (Mardi Gras Indian) is as old as the City itself beginning in 1718. As slavery spread slaves began to escape and found refuge with the indigenous people. They eventually begin to intermarry and form communities. The Africans who were already masking integrated some of the native people’s traditions with their own to create what is known as the Black Masking (Mardi Gras Indian) Tradition.

The Movie Black Panther Inspires a Community to Greatness
Black Panther Strike Box Office Gold
Black Panther,” Disney/Marvel’s African-oriented comic book adaptation, has taken the movie industry by storm breaking box office records for a film with a primarily Black cast.  In its first week, the movie has grossed over 200 million dollars at the box-office domestically and an estimated 369 million internationally.
On the heels of the release of the of Disney/Marvel Studios “Black Panther”, local Attorney Juan LaFonta, gave back to the community by treating inner-city kids and local families to a red-carpet premiere of the film at the AMC Palace Elmwood Theater.  New Orleans native Brandon Okpalobi runs Dibia Dream, Inc., an organization dedicated to giving back to the youth. Dibia Dream, Inc. sponsored a group of kids in New Orleans to see the film as well.

Data News Weekly and its community partner Cumulus Radio, were on hand for the event. 102.9 Radio Personality Downtown Leslie Brown telling Data’s Glenn Jones on the red-carpet of the significance of Black Panther the movie in inspiring a community of young people, “As a Black woman with a Black son and Black daughter they need to see more positive role models.”

And A Child Shall Lead Them

On March 24,  fifth-grader Naomi Wadler was onstage speaking at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.  During her three-minute speech, she spoke decisively about the lack of sustained media attention that Black women and girls receive when they are impacted by gun violence.  “I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential,” she said.  “I am here to say never again for those girls too.”

Her speech was quickly circulated online, earning her fans like Sen. Kamala Harris, Shonda Rhimes, Tessa Thompson and Ellen DeGeneres.  In the weeks following her launch into the national conversation, she says the whole experience has been “weird,” but was still ready to use her new platform to give journalists some strong advice.

“The media can pay attention; I feel that a lot of them are very ignorant,” she said, stressing that this ignorance is particularly clear when it comes to white journalists perpetuation racial stereotypes about Black and brown people.  “It’s the racial imbalance in the reporting that starts a chain reaction where then, other people start to believe that.”

Bill Cosby Found Guilty on All Charges in Sex Assault Trial

A Montgomery County jury last Thursday, found comedian Bill Cosby guilty on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault in the case involving Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, who sought career advice and friendship from the entertainer.

The decision came after more than a day of deliberations and after having Cosby’s deposition testimony read back to them.

Cosby, 80, faces up to 30 years in prison.  Several television analysts questioned the verdict.  Lawyer and famed CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson, who before the verdict said the case should have been declared a mistrial, said after the decision that Cosby’s team has “many grounds for appeal.” He said he was stunned by the verdict as well as the swiftness in which the jury delivered it.

“Certainly, the prosecution put up vigorous case … but I thought the defense did a significant job of discrediting Andrea Constand giving the jury an indication that there was a number of lies she told over a period of time,” Jackson said.

Latoya Cantrell Makes History as First Female Mayor of New Orleans
 Historic Day in New Orleans

On May 7, 2018 history was made as New Orleans inaugurated its First Female Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Data News Weekly had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview the new mayor on the eve of her big day about her feelings of being elected mayor and her vision for the City. In addition, Data News Weekly attended Cantrell’s swearing in and the Mayor’s Ball later than night.

Her Inaugural Address was emotion filled, at times, as she surveyed the to-capacity crowd where former mayors, elected officials, family and friends and supports came out to witness and support her on this historic day. Some wept visibly proud and overwhelmed that the City elected its first female mayor. That the City had overcome and torn down another barrier and that they were witnessing the dawning of a new age.

Her voice ringing in a triumphant tone Cantrell said, “We broke every kind of glass ceiling and color line and old outdated rule about who the mayor is supposed to be.” And anyone familiar with the history of New Orleans where issues of race, privilege and colorism among Blacks were often determining factors of who should lead the City.”   She addressed this issue head on as well saying, “What we have done in this election is we have changed people’s ideas about what the mayor is supposed to look like or where he was supposed to be born,” proclaimed Cantrell who came from Los Angeles to New Orleans as a student attending Xavier University and since then has made this her home building her career and family in the Crescent City.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama Comes to New Orleans
The Continuing of the American Dream: Former First Lady Michelle Obama 
America is at a crossroads at home and on the global stage. We have witnessed a shift from the Obama years, ones that promoted openness and inclusion, fast forward to today, we are seeing the exact opposite coming from the Oval Office.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden moderated the conversation with former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama during the Opening General Session of the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference and Exhibition Friday, June 22nd. This session took place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Hayden and Obama ended the opening program with an in-depth conversation around Obama’s forthcoming memoir “Becoming” (Crown Publishing Group) to be released in November of 2018. The book focuses on the experiences that have impacted her life, her family and the country.

Hayden, a phenomenal woman in her own right is the first woman and the first African-American to lead the Library of Congress. She was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama in February 2016, and her nomination confirmed by the U.S. Senate in July 2016.

Obama’s memoir will be published in the U.S. and Canada and in 25 languages around the world. The book invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her, from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work to her time spent at the world’s most famous address.

Trump Administration Creates Humanitarian Crisis in America
The New Orleans City Council issued a demand for the end of detention of children at the U.S. Mexico border.

As Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speak across town at the National Sheriffs convention, the City Council President and Vice President’s office filed a joint resolution for Thursday’s full Council meeting demanding an end to the un-American and inhumane DHS policy of forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents.

“I will continue to publicly condemn the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ enforcement of their new immigration policy to separate families,” said Council President Jason Williams. “Forcibly separating children from parents as a matter of course is inhumane and unnecessary, and as an African American and a descendant of American slaves, this policy is evocative of some of darkest days in this country’s young history. This policy is truly self-inflicted wound, and like many we have seen from the current administration, is antithetical to American values and basic humanity.”

The resolution calls for an end to this policy and immediate reunification for those children separated.

A Love Supreme: The Life and Legacy of Paul Beaulieu
A Life Dedicated to Serving Others
On July 24 the city loss a great New Orleanian and selfless servant and humanitarian who dedicated his life to helping others. Paul Beaulieu, who was a trailblazer using his positions as a broadcaster and educator passed away at the age of 75.

For those who crossed paths with this native of New Orleans, hailing from the 7th Ward experienced a man who represented the best of what the City has to offer pouring from his cup into others and inspiring them to greatness. After graduating from Xavier University in 1965 he worked tirelessly as an English Teacher at his alma mater St. Augustine where he led the alumni association before founding the Cornerstone Club, where graduates over the years would maintain their ties to the purple and gold contributing resources to continue its mission teaching young men; and giving them the tools to become leaders in many fields of endeavor not just in New Orleans but across the nation.

Paul Beaulieu was also one of the pioneers in the field of journalism, breaking barriers and giving African-Americans a larger voice in media. Writing an opinion column for one of the daily newspapers, “The States-Item.” In addition, he started his own newspaper, “The Spectator News Journal” he also was the host a Public Affairs Program called “Dimensions.” Later in his career he would serve as the co-host of the popular TV Program “Between the Lines” with fellow St. Aug Alum and community advocate Lloyd Dennis. Then he lent his voice to WBOK AM-1230 where he would have a top-rated show and later serve as the Station’s General Manager before retiring in 2015 with one of his last interviews being the present New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

The Most Important Vote In History 

Louisiana Voters Have a Chance on Nov. 6th to Change Controversial Split Verdict Law

Proposed Amendment No. 2

As the citizens of New Orleans head to the polls on November 6th the weight of history hangs in the balance. Unlike other elections this one goes beyond voting for those who would hold various elected offices. This election has on the ballot one of the most important and impactful issues that affect disproportionately effect on African-Americans.

Controversial Split Verdict Law (Non-Unanimous).  Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2 reads, ‘Do you support an amendment that require a unanimous jury verdict in all non-capital offenses that are committed on or after January 1, 2019.’

In short, Louisiana is only one of two states (other is Oregon) in the country that do not require a unanimous jury verdict in serious felony cases. A result that often leads to sending people to jail often for life. In fact, Louisiana only requires 10 of twelve jurors to consent in serious felony trials to get a guilty conviction. This unusual and controversial practice is something that’s contributed to Louisiana being (recently Oklahoma took top spot) as the prison capital of the world.
This law has historical links to a race-based legacy of segregation and racism that in 1898 worked to restore White Supremacy by preventing Blacks from voting and removing them from all aspects of power and relegating them to second-class citizenship.
This article originally appeared in the New Orleans Data News Weekly

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Activism

The California Department of Aging: There Is Help for Elder Californians

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process. DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

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Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.
Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles California Black Media

The St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Commission on Social Action held a community meeting on aging last Thursday in San Bernardino with representatives from the California Department of Aging (CDA) and the Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services.

Held in the sanctuary, the discussion featured state representatives and Social Action Commission members led by former Assemblymember and Commission Chair Cheryl Brown, who represented the 47th Assembly District in San Bernardino County from 2012 to 2016.

Brown spoke with community members and leaders from San Bernardino and Riverside counties about programs and resources available for elderly Californians and the caregivers who look after them.

“The state has set aside millions of dollars to help older Californians have a better quality of life through the Master Plan for Aging. And caregiving is fourth of the five goals established in the state’s Master Plan for Aging,” Brown told California Black Media.

CDA Director Susan DeMarois also attended the meeting.

CDA administers programs that serve older adults, adults with disabilities, family caregivers, and residents in long-term care facilities throughout the state. It has a $450 million budget and according to its Strategic Plan, CDA’s first objective is to advance Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Master Plan for Aging.

Newsom’s master plan was introduced as an executive order in the summer of 2019. Conceptualized as a five-point plan, its framework encompasses housing, health, equity, caregiving “that works” and affording aging.

According to DeMarois each point of the governor’s master plan has its own budget and will be implemented over the next eight years.

During the meeting — titled “Lunch, Listen and Learn” — community members expressed their concerns and suggestions specifically regarding how to take care of elderly Black people in the Inland Empire. A major theme of the discussion was ensuring familiar (traditional) modes and channels of communications that were being employed to reach Black elders.

Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services, spoke about ways in which the county has been involved in addressing those concerns.

“We have staff out there in the community, putting information in hands,” said Nevins.

Nevins emphasized the significance of Black churches and their unique influence on Black elders in California.

“We definitely reach out to the churches. We’ve always done that,” Nevins said.

DeMarois hailed San Bernardino as a model for the rest of the state because the city has been “meeting the needs of the whole person.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), California was tied with Hawaii in 2019 for the states with the nation’s highest life expectancy at an average of about 81 years.

Riverside County has a life expectancy of 80.3 years and San Bernardino County has a lower expectancy at 78.8 years.

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process.

DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

“It’s multi-pronged,” said DeMarois. “We know in the Black community faith is a proven path.”

One of the organizations mentioned during the community meeting – an organization that DeMarois claims she took note of – is the Inland Empire Pastor’s Association.

DeMarois expressed the need for the state and local agencies to implement “coordinated strategies” to approach challenges facing the state’s aging population.

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Black History

13-Year-Old Girl Becomes Youngest Person Accepted into Medical School

Thirteen-year-old Alena Analeigh Wicker received an early acceptance to the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s Heersink School of Medicine under its Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program. The program partners with Black schools in Alabama to offer students early acceptance as they plan to enter medical school.

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Alena Analeigh Wicker. Girls United photo.
Alena Analeigh Wicker. Girls United photo.

From Black Doctor.org

Getting into medical school is no small feat, but imagine doing it at just 13 years old. While most 13-year-olds are heading to high school, Alena Analeigh Wicker has made history by becoming the youngest Black person – and the youngest person ever – to get accepted into medical school.

“Today I’m just grateful. I graduated high school last year at 12 years old and here I am one year later I’ve been accepted into Med School at 13,” Wicker wrote on Instagram last week. “Statistics would have said I never would have made it. A little Black girl adopted from Fontana, California. I’ve worked so hard to reach my goals and live my dreams.”

She received an early acceptance to the University of Alabama, Birmingham’s Heersink School of Medicine under its Burroughs Wellcome Scholars Early Assurance Program. The program partners with Black schools in Alabama to offer students early acceptance as they plan to enter medical school.

Wicker, who is currently a junior at Arizona State, has always been ahead of her time.

After graduating high school, she was able to complete more than half of her undergraduate requirements at Arizona State University (ASU) and Oakwood University in just one year.

Wicker grew up loving to build things and previously had dreams of building robots for NASA. However, after a trip to Jordan with The Brown STEM Girl foundation, she fell in love with biology and realized that wasn’t the route she wanted to go.

“It actually took one class in engineering, for me to say this is kind of not where I wanted to go,” she told 12 News.” I think viral immunology really came from my passion for volunteering and going out there engaging with the world.”

Her goal?

“What I want from healthcare is to really show these underrepresented communities that we can help, that we can find cures for these viruses,” she added.

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Activism

New 988 Behavioral Health Crisis Number Launches in Marin County

“We hope that calling 988 in a behavioral health crisis becomes as second nature as calling 911 in a medical or safety emergency,” said Dr. Jei Africa, BHRS Director. “Everybody has a role to play in crisis response and suicide prevention and that’s why we’d like everyone to be aware of this new number.”

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Marin HHS oversees government-funded behavioral health and recovery services on a local scale. More resources are on the BHRS webpage.
Marin HHS oversees government-funded behavioral health and recovery services on a local scale. More resources are on the BHRS webpage.

Courtesy of Marin County

A new phone number for behavioral health crisis needs will soon launch nationwide. Instead of dialing 911, people should call 988 to report when someone is in danger of self-harm or suicide. Marin County agencies are raising local awareness of the new option and explaining when to use it.

Beginning July 16, 988 is the number to dial or text for urgent help in a time of mental health or substance use crisis, or even witnessing another person deal with a behavioral health challenge. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) envisions 988 as a first step toward a transformed national crisis care system. The service is a universal entry point to a trained crisis counselor regardless of the caller’s location. Marin will be among the first counties to launch 988, as other areas across the U.S. plan to launch later in 2022.

“We hope that calling 988 in a behavioral health crisis becomes as second nature as calling 911 in a medical or safety emergency,” said Dr. Jei Africa, BHRS Director. “Everybody has a role to play in crisis response and suicide prevention and that’s why we’d like everyone to be aware of this new number.”

The local provider of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is Novato-based Buckelew Programs. Staff who receive 988 calls or text messages will quickly evaluate the emergency and use trained crisis counselors to provide an appropriate intervention. Urgent calls requiring an in-person mobile crisis response are directed to clinical staff in the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) division.

“Buckelew Programs is proud to lead the 988 transition, providing life-saving services for Marin residents,” said Buckelew Programs Chief Executive Officer Chris Kughn. “It means greater access for those experiencing mental health, substance use or suicidal crises. Our trained counselors can provide callers with de-escalation, safety planning, connection to resources, and engagement with mobile and emergency response teams as needed. The hotline helps a person experiencing any level of distress with inclusive, multilingual and culturally sensitive services. 988 is about understanding the caller’s urgent mental health needs and is an alternative to our current emergency response systems.”

The creation of the 988 line is an expansion of the free 24-7 services and confidential support to callers in emotional distress that have been available since 2005. The federal government designated the 988 number to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2020 and went to work creating the infrastructure and training counselors fluent in many languages to respond to caller needs. States can now raise money to fund the call centers and related mental health crisis services by attaching new fees to phone lines. In California, Assembly Bill (AB) 988 is under review in the state senate and would assist with hotline launch and provide funding for local service providers to handle calls.

The launch’s timing this summer ties in with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has added stress to many lives. The national suicide rate has climbed nearly 30% since 1999 and is now the second leading cause of death among young people, according to federal sources. About 20% of the American population has a documented mental health condition.

Recently, high-profile acts of violence against innocent people — especially in the U.S. and especially with firearms — have brought more attention to the need for mental health services. It is estimated that victims in 25% of all officer-involved shootings are people in a mental health crisis. Thus far, law enforcement agencies across the country have supported the 988 program.

“While our 911 dispatchers will continue to be trained in crisis communications, de-escalation and recognizing those experiencing a mental health crisis through our inhouse Crisis Intervention Team post certified training program we welcome the opportunity to work cohesively with 988 operators,” said Heather Costello, Communications Manager for Marin County Sheriff’s 911 Call Center. “Cross-system partnerships are critical to 988’s success because the dedicated phone number will utilize resources from various disciplines, such as mental health, police, and fire, depending on which services may be needed by the person in crisis.”

Marin HHS oversees government-funded behavioral health and recovery services on a local scale. More resources are on the BHRS webpage.

If you or someone you know is in mental health distress, find resources on Prevention.MarinBHRS.org or contact:

Marin Suicide Prevention Hotline: (415) 499-1100

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255 y en Español: 1 (888) 628-9454

The Trevor Lifeline: 1 (866) 488-7386

Friendship Line (for 60 and older): 1 (800) 971-0016

Crisis Text Line: Text MARIN to 741741

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