Black Community Ambassador Program Provides Mental Health Support for Activists and Others in Ohio’s African-American Community

Sometimes, Adrienne Hood has to say, “No,” and that’s OK.

Since her son, Henry Green, 23, was fatally shot by plainclothes Columbus police officers in 2016, Hood has been on the front lines of community advocacy, thrust into a vocal and prominent role among activists pushing for criminal justice and other reforms.

It’s heavy and exhausting stuff, even more so during the past year.

“Just the expectation of needing to be in all of these spaces… It’s hard,” Hood said. “There was something going on every day.”

But Hood has learned to say “no” at times. “And my ‘no’ is a complete sentence,” she said, thanks, in part, to the Black Community Ambassador Support Program. The innovative initiative is spotlighting the importance of mental health services for activists and others in the African American community.

“Mental health is a real thing, it’s a real need,” Hood said. “If you need it, you need it, let’s get you connected to the right people.”

The Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County last year provided the initial $180,500 to launch the ambassadors program. Spokeswoman Mackenzie Betts said ADAMH plans to provide that same amount this year to continue the work.

The agency has spearheaded a number of programs through the years, said Dr. Kevin Dixon, who retired earlier this year after more than three decades at ADAMH, most recently as vice president of community and cultural engagement.

But the Black Community Ambassador Support Program is a first-of-its-kind effort focused on the mental health challenges of young professionals — in particular, Black men and women who work as counselors, executive coaches, mentors and in other support positions.

“They struggled themselves with anxiety or depression, the impact of trauma, and other emotional challenges,” Dixon said. “Several indicated that they needed help themselves from stress of just serving others but were not going to traditional service systems for care, including our system (at ADAMH).”

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SOURCE: The Columbus Dispatch, Marc Kovac