News Flash

Community Mental Health - Millage News

Posted on: February 18, 2021

WCCMH Black Lives Matter Task Force

A fist, raised in solidarity, with the words "Black Lives Matter" in the background.

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd’s death at the hands of police led hundreds of thousands of people throughout the nation to join the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. While the BLM movement is broad, it essentially seeks to eradicate systemic racism through education, dialogue, solidarity, and fundamental reforms. 

At Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH), a few staff members were personally inspired to address racial disparities by forming a Black Lives Matter Task Force at WCCMH. 

For Leah Mills and Judy Thurman, two mental health professionals from the WCCMH youth and family team who co-chair the task force, it was an opportunity to work toward systemic change with WCCMH community partner organizations, such as Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper (WMBK).

The task force’s mission is both internal and external. Members are working to develop strategies that reduce systemic racism within WCCMH, as well as to create meaningful impact in the surrounding community.

Since the first convening of the task force last summer, the internal work has focused on developing WCCMH staff training programs like, “Death by a Thousand Nicks: Healing the Wounds of Racial Trauma.” The training taught WCCMH employees to recognize systemic oppression, confront implicit bias and racial microaggressions, and engage in dialogue around racial healing, empowerment, and equity.

The task force is reviewing other topics for staff education, as well, including workshops and listening sessions on white privilege, health and racial disparities, critical incident stress management, and cultural competencies for assessing and working with clients. One of the primary goals of this work is to create knowledge across WCCMH, so Black and Brown residents interacting with the agency will have positive experiences throughout the entire system of care.

The task force's external work has focused on a few things, including engaging with the Sycamore Meadows community and creating a WCCMH presence so residents know that the organization is available to help. For example, WCCMH staff are holding Walking Wednesdays that help them connect with residents, build rapport, and begin to discuss community needs.

And for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the task force organized a virtual commemorative showing of civil rights documentaries. They also hosted a panel discussion with WMBK titled Formula 734: Been Through It, Tooa discussion of the group’s album and documentary project capturing the voices and experiences of young Black men in Washtenaw County.

Future task force plans include addressing issues pertinent to communities of color in historically underserved areas, including confronting mental health stigma, trauma, and gun violence.

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