The National Alliance on Mental Illness Contra Costa (NAMI CC) has provided critical non-clinical support to individuals and their families since its establishment over 30 years ago. However, in the last seven months, the work has been more intense as the agency became a subcontractor for the FEMA-funded CalHOPE project administered by the California Department of Health Care Services and the California Mental Health Services Authority. NAMI CC is on board to provide culturally specific resources and emotional support to African Americans experiencing challenges due to COVID-19.
Through this effort to meet the critical needs of this often under-resourced but high-risk population, 16 part-time African American crisis counselors and three administrators with diverse living experiences and a deep commitment to their community, are readily available to respond to calls and chats. The challenges that African Americans have faced during this pandemic have been multifaceted and exacerbated by the social unrest due to the senseless killings of unarmed Black people at the hands of those in place to protect and serve.
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Executive Director Gigi R. Crowder has over the last 20 years demonstrated her passion for improving mental health outcomes for African Americans and she embraces this project as a labor of love. She and the team have focused the bulk of their attention on outreach and offering lifesaving resources, prayer, and encouragement to equip the African American community across the state with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions. We share accurate information about the importance of COVID-19 testing, getting vaccinated, taking advantage of resources, and rejecting foolish misinformation.
Through preexisting relationships, the NAMI CC CCP project partnered with key African American faith leaders, influencers, and other cultural brokers from across California, and hosted educational trainings to replace inaccurate information with truths about the pandemic, and how African Americans in California should protect themselves. Our goal was to positively influence as much as possible the devastating impact of COVID, considering the history of this country, on this under-resourced and too-often neglected population.
Crowder and her team of highly-skilled and committed staff host tables at vaccination clinics. They work with county staff public health leaders to overcome vaccination hesitation without judgment by hosting town hall sessions. The primary daily focus is playing an essential role in assisting individuals from their community to take advantage of local and staff incentives, and resources such as rental and housing assistance, funeral service expenses reimbursements, childcare and other financial incentives.
The African American CCP Program is working hard to lift up the word “hope” while adding a few others such as “faith,” “promise,” “trust,” and “resilience” to ensure African Americans get through this with an improved sense of belonging.