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Sage Institute Welcomes Dr. Deidra Somerville as New Executive Director

“On behalf of the Sage Institute board of directors, we welcome Dr. Deidra Somerville as our incoming executive director,” said Kat Conour, Sage Institute for Psychedelic Therapy board chair. “Given Dr. Somerville’s expertise and clear dedication to fostering health and well-being for diverse and underserved communities, we trust that our mission and all those we serve will be in the right hands. We are confident she is the ideal person to grow Sage Institute into what we always envisioned it could be, and more.” 

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Dr. Deidra Somerville is the new Executive Director for Sage Institute, headquartered in Oakland. Photo courtesy of Sage Institute
Dr. Deidra Somerville is the new Executive Director for Sage Institute, headquartered in Oakland. Photo courtesy of Sage Institute

By Bobbie Carlton

Sage Institute for Psychedelic Therapy, a 501(c)3 non-profit which provides high-quality training and accessible psychedelic therapy to underserved communities, announced on Monday the arrival of its new executive director, Dr. Deidra Somerville.

Somerville has a background in social work and many years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, community development, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) facilitation. She believes in a human-first model of working within organizations, prioritizing community and relationship building. Originally from San Francisco, Somerville returned to the Bay Area from Illinois.

“On behalf of the Sage Institute board of directors, we welcome Dr. Deidra Somerville as our incoming executive director,” said Kat Conour, Sage Institute for Psychedelic Therapy board chair. “Given Dr. Somerville’s expertise and clear dedication to fostering health and well-being for diverse and underserved communities, we trust that our mission and all those we serve will be in the right hands. We are confident she is the ideal person to grow Sage Institute into what we always envisioned it could be, and more.”

“I’m honored and excited to join Sage Institute,” said Somerville. “This is a time of great change and opportunity for our beloved community of practitioners, partners, volunteers, donors and the individuals, families, and communities we serve.

“I believe Sage Institute to be well positioned to effectively lead and serve during this time of momentous growth,” Somerville said. “We are training practitioners, providing much needed access to psychedelic therapy to underserved communities, and building pathways to contribute to the body of research on the risks and benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy with diverse client populations. I am eager to bring my experiences as an advocate, organizer, fundraiser, researcher, administrator and healer to lead and serve the Sage Institute community.”

Sage Institute is the only organization that offers low-fee sliding-scale ketamine-assisted therapy alongside paid training for intern therapists gaining hours towards licensure as social workers, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists. Committed to training the next generation of diverse clinicians and leaders in the field, Sage Institute also offers a scholarship program to assist clinicians from diverse backgrounds to overcome financial and structural barriers to their participation.

Somerville’s top priorities for the next three months are to:

  • Further strengthen Sage Institute’s capacity to serve an ever-growing client base
  • Diversify the organization’s revenue streams with thriving partnerships
  • Develop a pipeline to licensure for graduates of the training program

About Dr. Deidra Somerville, PhD, MSW

An experienced executive, educator and administrator with a demonstrated history of advocacy for social justice, Somerville’s career has been devoted to the nonprofit and higher education industries. She was most recently responsible for sponsored programs, research services and human research protections at Roosevelt University and an adjunct member of the Psychology department at DePaul University.

In addition, she maintained a consulting practice providing support for grant administration, organizational development and diversity, equity and inclusion training. Somerville received her PhD in community psychology from National Louis University, her Master of Social Work from Boston University and her undergraduate degrees from University of California, Santa Cruz.

Bobbie Carlton is the founder of Carlton PR and Marketing. 

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Activism

Virtual Town Halls Addressing Black Mental Health on June 16 and June 23

“The community can’t wait any longer. We’ve been waiting for officials to do something since 2014,” said Pamela Emerson, co-chair of OFH’s Black Mental Initiative. “Think how many more people will die in the next three years while we wait! This is literally a life and death situation!

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Pamela Emerson is a co-founder of the Oakland Frontline Healers’ Black Mental Initiative. Photo by Pamela Emerson.
Pamela Emerson is a co-founder of the Oakland Frontline Healers’ Black Mental Initiative. Photo by Pamela Emerson.

By Tanya Dennis

When facing a need for health care, mental health evaluation or a mental health crisis, people of Asian, American Indian or Latinx descent in Alameda County have access to culturally relevant help at the American Indian Health Center, Asian Health Services, or La Clinica de La Raza.

African Americans have no such similar resource.

To address that issue, Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH) and the Bay Area Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) are hosting two virtual Town Halls on Thursday, June 16 and Thursday June 23 at 6 p.m. regarding “the State of Emergency” declared by Black and Brown leaders after 132 homicides occurred in Oakland in 2021.

The Town Halls will provide an opportunity for county, city, state, and federal officials to convene with OFH and ABPsi and other community activists to hear their plan to establish two African American healing hubs, and an African American healing center.

The proposed hubs would be in donated office space within OFH existing businesses to offer weekly patient appointments and emergency visits. If the hubs — at True Vine Ministries in West Oakland and East Bay Collective in East Oakland — are funded they could be operational within 30 days.

For months, OFH and the Bay Area Chapter of ABPsi have worked to create an immediate and long-term plan to complement Alameda’s County Behavioral Health’s plan which is still three to four years from reality.

The hubs will require $9 million a year to operate, and the center $18 million. Construction costs of the center have yet to be determined, as it will require the purchase of land for a 30,000-square-foot facility and architectural plans to determine costs.

“The community can’t wait any longer. We’ve been waiting for officials to do something since 2014,” said Pamela Emerson, co-chair of OFH’s Black Mental Initiative. “Think how many more people will die in the next three years while we wait! This is literally a life and death situation!

“OFH is taking action now, and we need our public officials to assist us. We have the plan, the services, and the personnel, all we need is funding. More policing is not the answer. We must heal Oakland,” Emerson said.

Dr. Lawford Goddard, the project leader for the Bay Area Chapter of ABPsi’s explained that there were two ‘lanes’ to this African American Mental Health initiative.

“One lane is in response to the ‘state of emergency’ of mental health in the African American community,” Goddard said. “These healing hubs would provide immediate mental health services to African Americans in need of healing…… This effort is community-driven and seeks funding from the state, the federal government, foundations, corporations and private Black investors and businesspersons. “

The second lane of the initiative is the establishment of the African American Wellness Hub Complex which is based on the original proposal submitted to Alameda County Behavioral Health.”

After the planning phase it will require about three years of construction.

“If funded we could have our hubs operational in 30 days,” Emerson said. “The problem is, in Alameda County’s plan, no money has been allocated for services, just construction. We need services, and we are ready and able to provide those services, but we need funding.”

Emerson is hopeful that the Supervisors will understand how vital culturally congruent mental health services are if there is any hope of ending violence in Oakland.

“What we hope to achieve with the Town Halls is everyone walks away acknowledging that violence in our community is a mental health issue, that lack of resources and opportunity exacerbates the problem, and most important, our officials walk away knowing they have people with the skills, knowledge, and expertise to help them produce solutions,” Emerson said.

“We want to be their partners, but we can’t partner until we know each other’s intent, abilities, and capacity. Attending our Town Hall on the 16th or 23rd of June will be a great way to start the process.”

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Activism

OCCUR & the San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program Present: A Model Built on Faith 2022 Leadership Series

Presenter, Karl Mill, Esq., is founder of Mill Law Center, a firm providing legal support to the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors. A long-time champion of underserved communities, Mill is dedicated to promoting justice under the law. “Our firm is in the nonprofit sector because we want to devote our lives to activities that relieve suffering and promote justice” says Mill.

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Workshop 3: Building Your Legal Guardrails

May 26, 2022

As organizations and communities emerge from years of changes and transformations due to the Covid pandemic, the broader landscapes in which they function have also changed. What current and possible new legal guardrails must be in place to move forward into the new normal? OCCUR and the San Francisco Foundation FAITHS program present Building Your Legal Guardrails. This capacity training will provide nonprofit and faith-based leaders with an overview of legal topics key to understanding and exploring the rapidly changing legal landscape.

Presenter, Karl Mill, Esq., is founder of Mill Law Center, a firm providing legal support to the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors. A long-time champion of underserved communities, Mill is dedicated to promoting justice under the law. “Our firm is in the nonprofit sector because we want to devote our lives to activities that relieve suffering and promote justice” says Mill. “We focus on priority areas such as racial justice, combatting economic and educational inequality, supporting immigrants’ rights, and dismantling mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline. Understanding key elements of the law is critical to advancing the work of all those who work in the nonprofit arena.”

Please join us for this informative workshop!

Date/Time:
May 26, 2022, 9 a.m.-11a.m.
Location: Zoom
How to Attend: Please RSVP on our website, amodelbuiltonfaith.org
Questions: Email info@occurnow.org, or call (510) 839-2440

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Activism

COMMENTARY: “COVID-19 and White Supremacy, Creating Our New Normal”

We must rescue and refine the best of Black ways. Look at our historical grandeur. We once imagined the great Step Pyramid before there was a pyramid. How did we do that? Black people lived through over four hundred years of rabid, hostile, savage, dehumanization yet never became rabid, hostile, savage dehumanizing people. Our way, our worldview, our narrative, our normativity is what allowed us to do this. This is what we need to revisit.

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Dr. Wade Nobles
Dr. Wade Nobles

Black Mental Health pt. 2

By Tanya Dennis

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, we knew the world would never be the same. For some, COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to correct a society filled with bias, inequality, and meanness.

For Dr. Wade Nobles, long-time scholar/activist, and co-founder of the Association of Black Psychologists, “This is our time of reckoning. It is a time to redo what we have always done, sometimes under the radar, always in opposition to white supremacy. This is the time for Black people to interlock, reconnect and heal our community without European influence.”

Dr. Nobles, the Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, and Oakland Frontline Healers are bringing together the best minds and calling on every sector to join them in the development of African American Wellness Hubs and an African American Healing Center in Oakland.

“Restoring wellness is to make the whole well. It is to connect everything and everyone in life affirming ways throughout the entire African world. Our way of being well and whole were well established in our past. In the past we gathered and found solutions collectively. Remember rent parties, Sunday church special offerings to send a child off to college or visiting the sick and shut in? These are our examples. In our way, personhood, familyhood, neighborhood, peoplehood, all the “hoods” are of equal importance. We can’t have a sick community and think our people will be well.”

Nobles and colleagues, after surveying and talking with Black people in Black communities across the nation, designed a detailed written plan for an African American Wellness Hub Complex. They envision a hub that is linked spiritually and psychologically, as a place where wellness and wholeness is real and ethnically authentic. Nobles said, “In many places our children are failing in school, many of our children are feeling they have no value, are being demeaned and assaulted. We need to take charge of these places. If teachers don’t love our children, they cannot ignite in them a desire to know and a passion for learning. If law enforcement doesn’t have high regard and deep respect for Black people, they will never understand that to ‘serve and protect’ means to be life affirming in what they do.”

“A big part of our new normal is to have in our thought, beliefs, and behavior the best of our wisdom, traditions and restorative practice available. This means to have in place living learning laboratories that are unapologetically devoted to our wellness, e.g., a wellness hub complex with healing centers. To have an exceptional and extraordinary place to bring people together and take them from hostile angry dis-at-ease producing places to places where we can work in harmony, create in dignity, and live to inspire life and ways of being that is affirming.”

Alameda County has stepped forward and is committed to establishing a Black Mental Health facility in partnership with the Association of Black Psychologists. The Association is grateful to Alameda County but notes four or five locations are necessary considering the amount of damage and illness that needs to be undone in the Black community.

Nobles says, “We must create a space, place and time that is guided by an African American wellness narrative that is awe-inspiring.” As an example of how important space is, he notes, “We tried to escape the blight and poverty of the inner city and move out to the suburbs, but all we did was go from inner city hostility to outer city hostility in the white enclave. At least in the inner city, our children didn’t lose their point of reference of belonging in the neighborhood or church. Healing spaces and places must be grounded in life affirming worldview and culture.”

“We must rescue and refine the best of Black ways. Look at our historical grandeur. We once imagined the great Step Pyramid before there was a pyramid. How did we do that? Black people lived through over four hundred years of rabid, hostile, savage, dehumanization yet never became rabid, hostile, savage dehumanizing people. Our way, our worldview, our narrative, our normativity is what allowed us to do this. This is what we need to revisit. We need a wellness place in our Black community where people can ‘imagine the better.’ A place where we can dismantle the ill and wrongfulness and recreate a vibrant affirming life spirit.”

Dr. Nobles says, “our new normal is the old African normal, where Black people inspired greatness just by living well and whole. Black people are a people of caring, sharing and daring. Our way was to care for our people, to share what we have, and to dare to be free. Our history records us having sacred places in nature where we would go to recreate our spirit of wellness. We need those places today and that’s why we need an African American Wellness Hub and healing centers.”

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