Forum Regarding Access to Mental Health Services

2ee6f501a6569cf213987ad1c50a88aa_xsGlendale, CA.- The Armenian American Mental Health Association (AAMHA) and the Armenian Relief Society of Western U.S.A. (ARS-WUSA), Regional Executive jointly hosted an informational program regarding mental health services on October 28, 2010, at the ARS-WUSA Regional Headquarters in Glendale. Members from both organizations, ARS social services and counseling staff, as well as other community leaders attended the presentation by Dennis Murata, Deputy Director, Program Support Bureau of the Los Angeles County, Department of Mental Health (DMH) and Gladys Lee, District Chief, Planning, Outreach & Engagement Division.

This was a chance for the mental health professionals and community leaders to learn about the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63 passed in 2004) and what has been done to reduce disparities for un-served, underserved and inappropriately served ethnic and cultural populations.

Arousyak Melkonian, ARS-WUSA Regional Executive Chair made the welcoming remarks adding that “your presence will help better serve the needs of our community”. She acknowledged Dr. Emma Oshagan, who as one of the founders and chairs the current AAMHA board, was instrumental in bringing the two organizations together.

Dr. Oshagan introduced and praised the two LA DMH administrators as very exceptional for having accomplished exceptionally in all kinds of situations. She described Murata’s humility, dedication and commitment to the field and how, several years ago, he had encouraged her to start AAMHA. She praised Lee for being a dynamic person, who had developed multicultural community based programs, which included outreach components. Murata described Dr. Oshagan as very tenacious, tireless, and a strong advocate. Lee introduced Dr. Tara Yaralian, who had helped her to understand the Armenian culture and has been a champion for the Armenian community.

Gladys Lee’s presentation covered the history of the Mental Health Services, provided a perspective of the progression of research in mental health, then she detailed the five plans within the Mental Health Services Act: Community Services and Supports; Workforce Education and Training; Prevention and Early Intervention; Information Technology and Capital Facilities; and Innovations. She explained that the single and consistent finding from email inquiries of ethnic communities was that for DMH to be able to help ethnic populations, communities need to be aware of the needs and existing resources. As immigrants, we share similar values, similar struggles. We may look different, but in our hearts, in the acculturation process we all need the same things. She urged those present to get involved in advisory committees of DMH service areas.

Following Lee’s presentation, Dennis Murata answered a variety of questions from the audience about ongoing issues and financial challenges.

Dr. Oshagan presented plaques and Arousyak Melkonian presented mementos to Dennis Murata and Gladys Lee for their contributions. The two presenters also took the opportunity to tour the ARS social services and counseling facilities.

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