Gulf Coast: Mental Health and Mental Illness

Gulf Coast: Mental Health and Mental Illness

Over the past two years Justice and Witness Ministries has been working with faith and community organizations on a ministry of Critical Presence.  We have gained the respect of community leaders by responding to their concerns with compassion, dedication, persistence.

The Faith-Community-Health Consortium on Mental Health and Mental Illness continues to identify ways that we can make a difference together regarding the critical mental health challenges in New Orleans.  To date this consortium has begun to write a grant that will be submitted to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.  The title of the grant is "Hold Out the Lifeline – Post Katrina Mental Health Issues:  Building Resiliency, Recovering Strength, and Restoring Faith Among Individuals and Communities in New Orleans.  The grant proposes to help residents reduce levels of stress, develop tools for assessing ad improving resiliency and building the capacity of community members to respond to the mental health crisis in New Orleans. 

The Consortium will begin to tackle a related mental-health issue – Criminal Justice and Mental Health.  The current shortage of beds for the mentally ill has resulted in many being arrested and locked up in the Orleans Prison, which does not have the capacity or infrastructure to care for these persons.  Lack of affordable housing, cost of food, insufficient health and lack of employment opportunities coupled with post-traumatic stress has exacerbated criminal activities.  By working with the Minister for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, the Consortium proposes to become an oversight committee within the justice system to highlight some of the injustices to the mentally ill and partner with law enforcement and judges to search for alternative solutions to the challenges of the mentally ill. 

Currently, the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital which provided critical inpatient and outpatient care for the mentally ill of all ages is scheduled to close leaving many mentally ill persons without health care services and would require them to travel 50 minutes away to be treated!  This will further escalate arrests in this population, as they are unable to acquire the appropriate medicines and treatment.

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