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Ahead Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, West Side Leaders Highlight Need For More Mental Health Care In Black Community

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Monday is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and a day before, a group West Side community leaders got a head start on the day of service that honors the Dr. King's legacy.

They hit the streets and addressed a serious issue - the need for more mental health care in the Black community.

As CBS 2's Jim Williams reported, community leaders went out Sunday to meet the immediate needs of homeless Chicagoans living in tents – hot food, long underwear, warm coats.

But the community leaders had long-lasting sustenance in mind as they worked at Chicago and Albany avenues.

"Our community must come together to not only provide shelter, but also provide all of the resources," said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Illinois).

Mental health clinicians offered their care, too.

"We believe that on the West Side of Chicago, we all are traumatized," said the Rev. Walter Jones of Fathers Who Care. "We all are suffering from various different mental and behavioral health issues."

Rev. Jones and the other leaders said we cannot separate trauma from violence and that if the city is going to seriously tackle violence, it has to address mental illness.

"When people are hurt, they hurt others. Hurt people hurt people," Jones said. "So we felt the need to bring these resources and the powers to be to the street."

According to the Kennedy Forum, which works across the country to increase access to mental health services, 69 percent of Black adults with mental health disorders receive no treatment.

The Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center is trying to improve that percentage.

"We have teams out here every single day at this location and other locations around the West Side, trying to identify and help the who need mental health and other forms of behavior health treatment to get the care that they need," Dr. Rashad Saafir of the behavioral health center.

So well beyond this Sunday, there is a vow to bring mental health care to people here - wherever they live.

"I'm talking about behavior specialists, behavior practitioners," Rev. Jones said. "I'm talking about those who do this work of behavior intervention and support clinically on the site."

On Monday, CBS 2's Williams will be moderating a virtual discussion on this very issue, hosted by the Kennedy Forum. It's called "Shocking Injustices: Mental Healthcare and Black Americans."

All are welcome to tune in. CBS 2 is a proud sponsor.

Kennedy Forum Spotlight Series

You may register by clicking here.

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