Community Empowerment Association

Since 1995, CEA has been successful in building a grassroots, community based organization designed to address the needs of the unemployed, the hard to serve, at-risk of welfare dependent individuals and families, violent youth gangs and children at risk of school failure. CEA seeks to facilitate a process of community building by empowering families in becoming competent, confident, conscious, contributing members of the community. Family empowerment leads to community empowerment in which members can define, mobilize and control resources, and solve problems.

A Model of Community Empowerment

CEA was founded on the basic belief that youth and families develop best in a community with a sense of order, positive social interaction and opportunities supported by positive adults. Empowered families live in functional communities that have sustained business activities, sustained employment, control over community resources, ability to influence formal systems, and an infrastructure that supporter social and spiritual development of children

Behavioral health and wellness initiative

A Cultural Approach to Behavioral Health & Wellness

The purpose of this initiative is to empower and enhance community and social functioning of members of the African American community who are underserved and hesitant to engage in traditional behavioral health or substance abuse treatment services.

CEA succeeds in doing this by:

  • Providing culturally-specific, accessible community based r mobile and in-home evaluation and treatment
  • Assisting participants in building and strengthening community support through referral and linkages to family, extended relatives, community resources and faith-based organizations.

The National Mental Health Information Center reports on treatment disparities ~ for people of African descent:

  • Drop out of services at a significantly higer rate than whites
  • Use fewer treatment sessions that whites
  • Enter treatment at a later stage in the course of their illness than white populations
  • Under-consume all community mental health services
  • Over-consume inpatient psychiatric care in state hospitals at 2x the rate of whites
  • Are more often misdiagnosed by mental health practitioners
  • Are more diagnosed as having severe mental illness than whites

Working within a cultural context can strengthen behavioral health services from diagnosis to treatment and decrease racial disparities.

In 2001, The Center for Mental Health Services sought out to develop and disseminate cultural competence standards for managed mental health services to improve the availability of high-quality services for 4 underserved and underrepresented racial/ethic groups. (African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans/Alaska Natives and Asian/Pacific Islander! Americans)

How important is culture?

• Culture is extremely important. It is not simply determined by ethnicity and a particular set of beliefs, norms and values. Culture also involves the historical circumstances leading to a group's economic, social and political status in the social structure. Culture involves the circumstances and experiences associated with developing certain beliefs, norms and values (Charon, 1995; APA, 1996).

• It is extremely important in relation to the socioeconomic and political factors which have a significant impact on a group's psychological well-being.

Cultural competence underscores the recognition of participants’/patients’ cultures and then develops a set of skills, knowledge and policies to deliver effective treatments.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and CMHS believe that:

• "Mental health services often are more effective when they are provided within the most relevant and meaningful cultural, gender-sensitive, and 1 age-appropriate context for the people being served.

• "For each racial/ethnic population, programs need to be built from the local community level, not structured from afar. Moreover, the services to be provided cannot be based on a "one-size- fits-all' approach. Information must be relevant to the specific group intended to be reached."

The Need for Cultural Competency

One mental health study found that African American youth were 4x more likely than whites to be physically restrained after acting in similarly aggressive ways, suggesting that racial stereotypes of Blacks as violent motivated the professional judgment to have them restrained.

Behavioral Health Issues/in the African American Community

Historical Cultural Crisis

• Generations of Africans in America have dealt with serious issues resulting from the erasure of a true cultural identity and context and community instability within American society

• Behavioral Health problems arise from cultural conflicts rooted in slavery, segregation, racism, health disparities, and economic isolation

Unresolved Cultural Conflicts

• Behavioral health and chemical abuse problems do not occur in isolation of societal or community environments and associated issues

• Cultural Crisis for African Americans strongly contributes to maladjusted personality types

Numerous Environmental factors put African American community, particularly youth, at risk for developing behavioral health disorders:

• Exposure to environmental toxins, such as high levels of lead; Exposure to violence, such as witnessing or being the victim of physical or sexual abuse, drive-by shootings, muggings, or other disasters;

• Stress related to chronic poverty, discrimination, and other serious hardships; and
• The loss of important people through death, divorce or broken relationships

• Many of these environmental factors are "symptoms" of an unhealthy dominant culture within a society imposed upon a "minority" culture

• Clinicians can often reflect the attitudes and discriminatory practices of their society

What is your cultural perspective?

Participants should be viewed and engaged within the context of their cultural group and their experiences as members of that group, as the individualized nature of mental health services dictate.

Within a profession, clinicians also have a “culture” – a professional group sharing a set of beliefs, norms and values. It is usually reflected in the jargon the group members use, their mindset or way of looking at the world, as well as the orientation and emphasis in their textbooks.

Mental health professionals trace their roots to Western medicine – specifically to two European milestones

Biological psychiatry – which was the pathway to pharmacological therapy or drug treatment

Psychotherapy – talk therapy, which emphasizes verbal communication between patient and therapist

•Most treatments today combine pharmacological therapy and psychotherapy, advanced by scientific traditions of Western medicine.
•Because of this basic most clinicians share a worldview about the interrelationship among body, mind and environment and view symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments in a manner that can sometimes differ from the patient/program participant.
•Professional culture (as well as personal culture) combined with diverse ethnic or cultural differences feeds a degree of distance between clinician and patient/participant and provides a space for ignorance and misunderstandings to breed.

CEA's Unique Approach to Traditional Services

As practitioners, the mental health staff of CEA has a profound understanding of the cultural frame of reference of the participants we serve. Our strategies include:

  • The integration of culture, race and social identity throughout the therapeutic process
  • The analyses of dynamics of racism and discrimination
  • The use of strengths approach, integrating the "Person-in-Environment framework (e.g. social, economic, political reality)

CEA Staff includes a diverse group of professionals who are skilled:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Therapists
  • Drug & Alcohol Counselors
  • Family & Community Outreach Specialists
  • Community Healers
  • Employment Specialists
  • Cultural Community Educators
  • Case Managers

Community- Driven, Family Strengthening Culturally Integrated

Our philosophy consists of the following services based methods:

  • Family centered
  • Culturally competent
  • Designed to meet special needs
  • Community based/natural supports
  • Flexible
  • Coordinated
  • Strength-based
  • Accountable

Family centered- services are tailored specifically to needs of the family. Participants and their families are involved in service planning. Services are delivered in locations and at times that are convenient to the individual/family.

Designed to meet special needs - Services focus on the unique needs of African Americans, including issues surrounding community violence and related trauma (emotional stress) to members of the African American community.

Culturally competent - Use of African-centered philosophy, focusing on the whole person. CEA believes in the importance of understanding the values and customs of African American culture while addressing the unique behavioral health issues of this population.

Community-based / natural supports - Services focus on the relationship between the individual and their family and community. Services also involve linking participant to other community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, supports and social groups.

Flexible - Services are mobile and are available during business hours and non-traditional hours by appointment. Services are delivered in natural community settings (e.g. home, after- school programs, community organizations, etc.) A crisis intervention team is also available for situations requiring an urgent response.

Accountable - Specific goals for treatment are established with the participants and family/significant others, as appropriate, and measured on a regular basis. Staff motivate participants to also work on other goals established for continuous growth and self- improvement, which are measured on a regular basis.

Coordinated - Services are coordinated through the Inter- Disciplinary Team process and includes all persons who are involved in the participant's life (e.g. family, community, clergy, social services, etc.)

Strength-based - Services focus on building upon strengths and concentrates on increasing an individual's motivation, spirituality, identity, self- esteem, leadership and social relationships.

The Major Goals of the Behavioral Health & Wellness Initiative include:

  • Diagnose & assess mental/behavioral health and wellness
  • Reduce psychological distress
  • Increase the knowledge of socially acceptable norms
  • Provide an immediate level of intervention in the broader community
  • Build Trust
  • Address family needs
  • Facilitate recovery and interdependence

CEA Staff includes a diverse group of professionals who are skilled:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Therapists
  • Drug & Alcohol Counselors
  • Family & Community Outreach specialists
  • Community Healers
  • Employment Specialists
  • Cultural Community Educators
  • Case Managers

The CEA Maintenance Group

A business initiative created for the empowerment of qualified community residents for hire in maintaining residential for hire in maintaining residential and commercial properties through landscaping, painting, cleaning and hauling

Annual Community Events

  • Kwanzaa Celebration CEA holds this cultural holiday event in honor of the 7 principles of community-building, providing free food, entertainment, special guest speakers and children’s activites
  • Black Family Reunion First held in honor of CEA’s 10 year anniversary, the Family Reunion provides educational fun in the park for community residents, offering workshops and amusement for the entire family

More Community Events/Services

  • MVMP Youth Summit Urban Peace and Justice Summit
  • Gazebo Maintenance
  • Ancestor’s Day
  • A Day of Black Male solidarity
  • Job Fairs
  • Health Fairs
  • Community Clean-up
  • Youth and Community Forums