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Mount Sinai Partners With Black Churches To Address Mental Health

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - In the midst of racial reckoning and a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting the Black community, mental health is more important than ever. This week Mount Sinai announced a new expansion of services, focusing on faith.

The HOPE Center in South Harlem may look like many other mental health clinics, but this one calls the historic First Corinthian Baptist Church home.

"We provide services focusing on everything from depression and anxiety to grief and loss," HOPE Center director Dr. Lena Green explained.

This week, Green and her team celebrated their fifth anniversary of showing congregants it is okay not to be okay. Their work has attracted the attention of Mount Sinai's new health equity research director, Dr. Sidney Hankerson.

"I think what's so powerful about the work at the HOPE Center is that the Senior Pastor Michael Walrund is very transparent about the fact that he sees a therapist," Hankerson said.

Leading by example has been the key to unlocking trust. All the services provided at the HOPE Center are free, in an effort to remove any barrier between a patient and access to care, and it is working.

"We've had extremely long waiting lists during the pandemic, more than 75 people on the waiting list at a time," Green said.

The church hosts group sessions while patients wait for their one-on-one. To meet the demand, Mount Sinai has now pledged to add its own staff to the center's schedule.

"We are going to be working closely with psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers," said Hankerson, "a whole host of mental health professionals to try to fill the gaps and address the waitlist."

Mount Sinai is also training more clergy to answer the call across Harlem and the Bronx, using a Robin Hood Foundation grant to adapt a program initially designed to coach frontline healthcare workers in resilience.

"We added content around the importance of social justice and supporting resilience, we integrated scripture into the curriculum with guidance from the faith leaders, and we've done about 40 of these workshops," said Dr. Jonathan Depierro, the clinical research director for Mount Sinai's Center For Stress Resilience and Personal Growth.

If you have not taken a resiliency workshop and you are struggling to cope with the stress of serving others, Depierro suggests remembering the impact you make each day, no matter how small, to lighten the load.

To learn more about the HOPE Center, click here.

To learn more about Mount Sinai's programs, click here.

If you have a tip about the happenings in Harlem, please reach out to CBS2's Jessi Mitchell by clicking here.

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