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Study Reveals Barriers to Mental Health Support for Black, Latina Women

The current social and economic climate creates a distinct set of pressures on Black women and Latinas. Thirty-four percent cite finances or issues related to inadequate income as the top concerns facing their households. Safety, health, and housing also rank as chief concerns. More than 3 in 5 respondents reported having a mental health concern for which they did not seek care from a provider. The barriers they cited include travel expenses, length of travel time to appointments, and inability to take time off work. Women without coverage for mental health services, those with mental health conditions, younger women, and those covered through Medi-Cal reported the highest rates of untreated needs.

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More than 800 Black and Latina women across California were surveyed by BWOPA and HOPE®. iStock image.
More than 800 Black and Latina women across California were surveyed by BWOPA and HOPE®. iStock image.

By Maxim Elramsisy
California Black Media

A poll of Black women and Latinas across California conducted by Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE)® found that 77% are experiencing some form of discrimination due to “personal characteristics,” including race or ethnicity, assumptions about income or education, and/or physical appearance.

“We have known that racism and discrimination take a toll on the mental health of our communities, and now we must factor in the disproportionate and lingering effects of the pandemic on communities of color,” said LaNiece Jones, executive director of BWOPA.

“What matters now is that we don’t sweep these added challenges aside but treat these barriers in mental health care for what they are: a crisis in care that must be urgently addressed,” Jones added.

The historic poll was conducted by Los Angeles-based public opinion research firm EVITARUS.

Responses were recorded from 800 Black and Latina women across California and the findings provide insights about the most important concerns that they face with their families, accessibility of mental health services, preferences for providers, and priorities for approaches to create greater equity in the provision of mental health care.

Experts widely agree that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered an unprecedented global mental health crisis. People of color, young people, women, and those with low incomes were most at risk of mental health challenges before and after the pandemic, compounded by the added weight of a heightened economic crisis and instability, as well as more visible expressions of White Supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant sentiment and hate crimes aimed at communities of color.

The current social and economic climate creates a distinct set of pressures on Black women and Latinas. Thirty-four percent cite finances or issues related to inadequate income as the top concerns facing their households. Safety, health, and housing also rank as chief concerns.

More than 3 in 5 respondents reported having a mental health concern for which they did not seek care from a provider. The barriers they cited include travel expenses, length of travel time to appointments, and inability to take time off work. Women without coverage for mental health services, those with mental health conditions, younger women, and those covered through Medi-Cal reported the highest rates of untreated needs.

The women who did seek help reported often having negative experiences. Seventy percent of Black women and 54% of Latinas reported racial or ethnic discrimination. Another 59% of Black women and 55% of Latinas reported “assumptions people make about your income or level of education.”

Forty percent of Latinas reported discrimination based on “assumptions about their ability to communicate in English” and 28% reported “assumptions about…documentation of immigration status.” Several other types of discrimination were reported, particularly relating to class, faith, size, and accent.

“Our research draws a direct line between the challenges in accessing mental health care for Latinas and Black women to the shortage of mental health professionals that share our backgrounds,” said Helen Torres, CEO of HOPE. “The data is a call to action for healthcare providers and educational institutions to address the negative impacts of a healthcare workforce that does not represent the communities it serves. We must take steps to close the representation gap and provide better care to all.”

Nearly half of respondents reported difficulty finding access to a mental health provider.

Fifty-seven percent of Black or African American women and 38% of Latina women said that it was extremely important or very important to have providers of the same background, but more than half said it is difficult to find a provider who shares their values or comes from a similar background. According to the Medical Board of California, only 4% of active psychiatrists practicing in California are Latino and only 2% are Black.

The ability to find a therapist with shared values and offering low-cost services were the most commonly reported barriers, though many also reported difficulty finding providers and services covered by their insurance. Insurance acceptance was the most documented problem across all age groups, underscoring the widespread unaffordability of mental health care.

Disparities in women’s health are well documented at almost every level of health care. Mental health is no different.

The mental health crisis is not specific to adults. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15-19, according to a 2019 study on mortality. Suicide rates among Black youth have been rising for more than a decade, most sharply among Black girls. According to a 2021 report, approximately one third of young Latinas seriously contemplate suicide.

Long-existing disparities in maternal health are also present with relation to mental health. Women of color suffer from higher rates of postpartum depression compared to white women. They also have a lower rate of screening and treatment for post-partum mood disorders.

The study recommended increased funding to address the barriers to getting adequate care and development of programs, scholarships and financial aid to increase the pipeline of Black women and Latinas in mental health related fields — which, experts say, will increase the number of mental health advocates and promotors who can work to help women navigate the system and expand awareness among communities of color about the benefits of seeking help or support when facing mental health challenges.

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Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Activism

16th Annual MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

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“…Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 16th annual MLK Day of Service in Richmond honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  was held Jan. 16 with a day of service to the community and activities for families on the Richmond Greenway.

The event was hosted by Urban Tilth and the City of Richmond. Event partners were Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Moving Forward, Hope Worldwide, The Watershed Project, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, Building Blocks for Kids, City of Richmond, Cal Cameron Institute, Friends of the Richmond Greenway; and Pogo Park.

The celebration made possible with the support of the Hellman Family Foundation, City of Richmond, and hundreds of individual donors.

The day’s schedule included volunteer projects along the Richmond Greenway and a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and community celebration at Unity Park.

Among the community service projects were opportunities to take part in projects to transform and beautify the Richmond Greenway Trail, like tending to the Greenway Gardens, trash pickup, and planting native plant and trees.

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Activism

Sheng Thao Sworn in as New Mayor of Oakland, Pledges New Direction for the City

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

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Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.
Mayor Sheng Thao, sworn in as the 51st Mayor of Oakland, is flanked by her son Ben Ventura and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Jan. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao appoints HNU’s Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as deputy mayor

By Ken Epstein

Sheng Thao, a daughter of Hmong refugees who overcame homelessness and domestic abuse to attend university and build a life for herself and her family in Oakland, received the official oath of office Monday afternoon as the new mayor of the City of Oakland.

Sworn in at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, she stood on stage surrounded by friends, family, and staff members. She was flanked by her son Ben Ventura, who performed a musical piece on the cello, and her father “Richard” Nou My Thao.

The mayor called on Oaklanders to join with her to create a more humane, inclusive, and just city. She spoke about her commitment as a progressive to significantly improve the quality of life for residents, making the city safer and cleaner, building 30,000 units of truly affordable housing, fostering jobs, promoting economic development, supporting small businesses and providing solutions to homelessness that recognize the dignity of the unsheltered.

“I know what we can do together, Oakland,” she said. “Our city’s’ best days are still to come. The Oakland that we all know is possible and within our reach.”

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Newly appointed Deputy Mayor Kimberly Mayfield (left) with Mayor Sheng Thao. Photo courtesy of Alain McLaughlin Photography.

Mayor Thao provided a few minutes on the program to introduce to the community Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, the newly appointed deputy mayor, who has served as vice president of external affairs and dean of the school of education at Holy Names University, a leader of the Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and a member of the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.

In her remarks, the mayor focused on the city’s long fight to become more inclusive and equitable.

“We believe everyone deserves a seat at the table, not just a few, not just the wealthy, not just the well-connected,” she said.

“Sometimes, we take our shared progressive values for granted, our advances toward justice and equality,” said Mayor Thao.

She reminded people that “a…century ago, our city was dominated by members of the Ku Klux Klan (where) Klan members burned crosses in our hills and marched through our streets. As recently as the1970s, freeways were made possible by tearing down thriving Black, Latino, and Asian communities,” she continued.

“We recognize what we have overcome together to remember what is worth fighting for every day…(and) to take stock of how far we still have to go.”

Promising a “comprehensive” approach to public safety to make all neighborhoods in the city safer, she said she would bolster anti-crime programs like Ceasefire and “we will fill (police) vacancies with home-grown police officers who know our community, who look like us.”

At the same time, she said, the city must increase opportunities for young people, reinvigorating the summer jobs program (for youth) and enhance the school-to-work pipeline so young people can gain experience and job skills.

She said she would beef up the many city departments that are currently operating on skeleton staffing, promising to fill the staffing vacancies that “plague our city.”

Mayor Thao said she herself is a renter, and that she “will fiercely protect Oakland renters. If you are a renter in Oakland, you’ve got a mayor who’s got your back.”

Speaking about the Oakland A’s proposed waterfront real estate development promoted by former Mayor Libby Schaaf, Mayor Thao said the city will continue negotiations to keep the team “rooted in Oakland.”

“Working closely with the A’s, I’m hopeful we can reach a good deal, (based) on our Oakland values,” she said.

The former mayor’s plan for building the proposed waterfront real estate development at the Port of Oakland was dealt a major setback this week when Oakland failed to secure more than $180 million in federal funds to help pay for infrastructure development for the project.

Speaking of the importance of the appointment of Mayfield as deputy mayor, the Mayor’s Office explained her role in the new administration:

“Mayor Thao was thrilled Kimberly Mayfield agreed to join her team because of her tremendous and longstanding leadership in Oakland. In recognition of her vast experience, it was decided that the best role for her would be as deputy mayor where she will be an instrumental part of the leadership of both the Office and Oakland.”

In her introduction at the Paramount Theatre, Mayfield said, “Today is not about political agendas…It’s about the power of the people…it’s a recognition of the rejection of the status quo. This new chapter begins with a mayor that understands how to build a culture that works for everyone. Thank you, Mayor Thao for the opportunity to serve.”

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