News & Announcements

“Pastoral Counselors” Help Fill Mental Health Gap In Rural States

Posted: August 22, 2014

Mental health therapists most often leave issues of faith outside their office doors, even for patients who are religious. But one class of counselors believes a nonsectarian model doesn’t serve everyone equally well.

“On a feeling level, people want a safe, respectful place, to ponder the tons of questions that come begging in hard times,” said Glenn Williams, a pastoral counselor in Kentucky and chair of the Kentucky Association of Pastoral Counselors. “Where is God?  Why did this happen?  Is it karma, sowing-reaping, happenstance?  What purpose does this suffering serve?”  

Williams, who works at the St. Matthews Pastoral Counseling Center outside Louisville, said many of his patients are quite “intentional” about their preference for pastoral counselors over other mental health professionals.

Kentucky recently became the sixth state (joining Arkansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee) to allow pastoral counselors to become licensed mental health counselors. As of now, Kentucky only has 20 licensed pastoral counselors. But the hope is that licensing will increase those numbers by making it easier for pastoral counselors to receive health insurance reimbursement and by adding luster to the field.

Kathy Milans, a pastoral counselor in Wilmore, Kentucky and chairman of the Kentucky Board of Licensure for Pastoral Counselors, said many pastoral counselors wanted the new law so they would be on an equal footing with other mental health professionals. “It just moved us up a notch professionally,” she said. “All the other helping professions had that license after their names, and we did not.”

Read the full story on Stateline.

This copyrighted story comes from Stateline, the daily news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts. (Learn more about republishing Stateline content)

Webinar: Get Ready to Plan an Inter-Tribal Suicide Awareness Walk

Posted: August 21, 2014

As part of National Suicide Prevention week in September, tribes from around the country have come together to raise awareness about suicide among Native American communities in the Annual Inter-Tribal Suicide Awareness Walk. The National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health (a SAMHSA-supported initiative) invites you to join us on Thursday, September 4th at 3:00pm ET for an informational webinar that will provide an overview on the need for suicide prevention in tribal communities, highlight successes and lessons learned from previous walks, and share ideas for tribal and other communities to plan their own walks.

Register now!

The first Annual Walk "Tribal Communities Connecting Together to Prevent Suicide” was held on Sept 12, 2012. Each tribe developed their own activities to raise awareness and increase understanding of suicide prevention. All participants walked with the knowledge that other tribes country-wide were participating in similar celebrations of life. The organizing tribes, along with the Center for American Indian Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, are part of the NNED and participated in NNEDLearn 2012.

Read highlights from the 2012 walk.

Annual Inter-Tribal Suicide Awareness Walk logo courtesy of Deleah Kaamasee, Ely Shoshone Tribe, 2012 Logo Contest winner.

White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Program for Young Leaders

Posted: August 20, 2014

The E3! Ambassadors Program is a new challenge that the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) is posing to young leaders. E3! stands for “Educate, Engage, and Empower.” The Initiative is seeking bright and creative young leaders to brainstorm innovative solutions to serve the AAPI community in four priority areas: education, mental health, pathways to public service, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Applicants are encouraged to submit ideas and action plans to advocate for the AAPI community locally and regionally, anything from hosting a career fair to flyering during campus/community events. 

Up to 150 applicants will be selected as E3! Ambassadors, who will serve for one academic year between September 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015. E3! Ambassadors will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with Administration leaders, including Initiative staff and members of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs and Regional Interagency Working Group. 

The deadline to apply has been extended to Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Learn more about this program. Submit your solution.

App Developers Hope to Help Veterans Battling Mental Health Issues

Posted: August 19, 2014

POS REP, short for Position Report, is a free iPhone app designed to help military veterans who are in distress or need help adjusting to civilian life. With military and veterans' suicides near record levels in recent years, the app is designed to help vets find one another, as well as nearby health centers, emergency care and other critical services. Still in the testing mode, it chiefly focuses on Los Angeles for now.

The developers have partnered with the Los Angeles chapter of Volunteers of America, and the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. They also will launch a crowd-funding campaign to raise $500,000 to create an Android version and ultimately expand the app's coverage to other cities.

Anthony Allman, who heads the app's backers, says the idea emerged after Smith's friend Hunt, a nationally known veterans' advocate, shot himself in 2011 after battling depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Hunt's death "really sent a shock wave through the veteran advocacy community because Clay was not hiding in his room," Allman said. "And we thought, 'Well, how can we prevent that from happening again?'"

Department of Veterans Affairs data indicate that up to 30% of military veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer some sort of post-traumatic stress. Researchers are wary of the figure, however, because it includes only veterans who have utilized VA healthcare facilities and the disorder is difficult to diagnose.

The new app isn't connected to the VA, but it aims to help military retirees access VA services and other useful links. GPS-linked maps will give directions to nearby health clinics, job fairs and local chapters of service organizations. "We can make sure they have access to the support that they need to succeed to prevent things like chronic homelessness and suicide down the road," Allman said.

VA officials say the app could promote wellness when paired with mental health treatments or interventions.

Read more on Download the free app from the iTunes store.

The Black HIV Epidemic: A Public Health Mystery from Atlanta’s Gay Community

Posted: August 18, 2014

In the early 2000s, a young researcher at the Centers for Disease Control named Greg Millett set out to solve an epidemiological mystery. Nobody could explain why black Americans, particularly black gay men, had such high rates of HIV infection compared to the rest of the population. How were they putting themselves in so much danger? What were they doing differently from everyone else?

Millett began with a survey of the published research, but that only seemed to raise more questions. Study after study seemed to arrive at the same conclusion: Black gay men take fewer risks in the bedroom than white gay men. They are just as, if not more, consistent about condom use and STD testing. They have fewer sex partners. They are less likely to abuse injection drugs. Despite all this, black men—gay, straight, or bisexual—are 6 times more likely than white men to contract HIV in a given year.

In 2006, Millett wrote up these findings in the American Journal of Public Health, alongside a careful review of alternate theories for what was going on. Some thought that genetic risk factors or circumcision or the prison systems played a role, but Millett found that the most promising theories involved healthcare disparities. For instance, black men are more likely to have other STDs like gonorrhea or syphilis, which increases one’s risk of contracting HIV. The sheer prevalence of HIV in the community means that despite getting tested just as frequently, black men are still more likely to have an undiagnosed infection, a circumstance that makes them more likely to pass on the disease. Lack of healthcare access raises another issue, in that those who do have HIV are less likely to be on the antiretroviral therapies that could make them less infectious to others.

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