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New York City Council members, community advocates push to require AAPI education in schools, increase access to mental health services for community

New York City leaders, advocates discuss issues facing AAPI community
New York City leaders, advocates discuss issues facing AAPI community 02:11

NEW YORK -- City leaders and community advocates gathered in City Hall Park on Thursday, calling attention to the issues the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is facing, sharing with CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis changes they're pushing for.

"We cannot celebrate AAPI Heritage Month without discussing exactly what our community is navigating, when we're supposed to be celebrating," said Ravi Reddi, associate director of advocacy and policy for the Asian American Federation.

For that very reason, the Asian American Federation brought together AAPI advocates, amplifying community voices and concerns.

"They are crippled by the anxiety and stress of being assaulted, being harassed," said Lilya Berns, with Hamilton-Madison House.

Leaders of several city nonprofits say a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes has led to a greater need for their services.

"The call volume to our 24-hour hotline has increased by 300%," said Jeehae Fischer, executive director for the Korean American Family Service Center.

"Violence against Asian Americans in our city is fueling a mental health crisis as well in our communities," New York City Councilmember Shekar Krishnan said.

A focal point is improving access to mental health services.

"Culturally competent mental health care that is in every language," New York City Councilmember Alexa Avilés said.

Plus, education. Linda Lee is among City Council members who wrote a resolution backing proposed state legislation, that would require public school students be taught about AAPI history and contributions.

"It normalizes people seeing us as part of the importance and the fabric of New York City, so I think that will really help to break down a lot of those barriers," Lee said.

Those who spoke at Thursday's event want to drive home the point these are issues that need attention beyond AAPI Heritage Month to ultimately yield change.

"This is a call to people to support these nonprofits. This is a call to the city to prioritize them as the experts in funding and in policy making," Reddi said.

"Anti-Asian hate isn't just an Asian problem, it's a society problem for all of us to focus on," one speaker said.

The Asian American Federation also drew attention to its mental health directory, which lists many organizations and ways people can get help. For more, visit mhd.aafederation.org.

City Council members also introduced a resolution that calls on the Department of Education to establish Diwali as an official holiday for public school students, saying approximately one-fifth of the total school population celebrates Diwali.

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