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Poverty & Equity Thought Leadership

Offering Behavioral Health Services in our own Backyard

Families First has been “Stomping the Stigma” around mental health throughout the month of May. We started by rallying our staff and volunteers and putting their sneakers to the street to spread the word throughout Choice Neighborhoods on the Westside. Families First representatives went door to door in the Westend Neighborhood with information about behavioral health services and our upcoming “Rock the Block” community engagement block party that occurred on May 15th.

“The walk was sparked by having a need to create more awareness in our surrounding neighborhoods regarding the various services and resources Families First offers. It was the perfect opportunity to recognize Mental Health Awareness month and share information about our Choice Neighborhood grant that greatly benefits the surrounding communities,” said John Kennebrew, LPC, Families First Behavioral Health Clinical Manager.  

In September 2015, Atlanta Housing (AH), in partnership with the City of Atlanta, received $30 million in funding through the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant (CNIG). This grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through its signature revitalization initiative, Choice Neighborhoods, supports efforts to revitalize the former University Homes public housing site and three residential neighborhoods: Atlanta University Center (AUC), Ashview Heights and Vine City. These neighborhoods collectively are known as the University Choice Neighborhood. In alignment with HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program, Choice Atlanta focuses efforts on three core goals: Housing, People, and Neighborhood. Thanks to this grant, Families First is providing Behavioral Health Services at no cost to any individual, or families residing in Choice Neighborhoods. 

May 15th was an exciting time for the organization as it was another opportunity to connect with the neighborhoods surrounding the central office.  Families First hosted a Community Block Party in which nearly 300 people from the Westside attended. There were several speakers and performances that helped to create awareness around May being Mental Health Awareness month, which presented an opportunity to “Stomp the Stigma” when it comes to seeking services (especially in communities of color) for those who may need mental health treatment.  All the various programs were in designated areas around the block party that helped to inform attendees from the community about all of Families First services and how to access them including our newly implemented Navigator services. The organization was also able to engage the immediate Westside Community who have Choice Neighborhood (CN) zip codes and are seeking counseling. 

 Families First is grateful for everyone who was able to attend with their families and friends and shared time, energy, and efforts to inform Westside communities about our services.  Our vendors and special guests were amazing and resonated with the crowd! We were able to collect 170 Families First Resiliency Screenings and get our neighbors connected to Behavioral Health Services as well other programs we offer.  

The Families First team will continue these critical conversations surrounding mental health on June 9 at Unity for a Difference. Between the recent violent events, COVID-19, our long periods of social isolation, job losses, trauma and other challenges, many people need someone to talk to for help navigating these difficult times. Unity will include a fireside chat with DePriest Waddy, CEO of Families First, John Kennebrew, Counseling Program Manager and Dr. Edward Valentin, Clinical Director at Families. 

In addition, Unity will highlight how the last years has impacted our youth. Unity will begin with an energetic and inspiring morning starting with a dynamic youth roundtable, Next Gen Voices, moderated by Shan Cooper, our honorary chair and the Executive Director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress.  

Hosted by Ella Dorsey, CBS46 Meteorologist, the morning will highlight how Atlanta leaders are bringing Unity to life.  From our award honorees and their work in diversity, equity, and inclusion to our Unity Is which tells firsthand how leaders from Accenture, Telemundo, City of Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz, and others describe Unity. The creative performances from Kennesaw State University College of the Arts will remind us all the power of the arts to Unite us to make a difference. Learn more and join us on Unity for a Difference Unity for a Difference – Families First

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