Marin County awards $ 1 million contract on equity basis

Marin County has awarded a million dollar mental health services contract to a nonprofit seen as more racially focused.

The two-year contract to run a “corporate resource center” for adults with mental illness has been awarded to Mental Health Advocates of Marin, which will operate under the fiscal sponsorship of the Multicultural Center of Marin until it becomes obtains its own 501 (c) (3) non-profit tax status. Community Action Marin, a non-profit organization based in San Rafael, had operated the existing resource center for about 10 years.

The location serves as a communal drop-in center for people with mental health issues where they can socialize, meet peer specialists, find mental health resources and learn life skills.

Jei Africa, director of the Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division, said the change was made because “we felt the multicultural center had a lot more new things to offer. They are truly aligned with the county’s movement towards equity and trauma-informed care.

“Informed trauma is really knowing that a lot of people who come into our system have had experiences that have been really hurtful to them,” Africa said. “We know that many people have been hurt by other service providers, by members of the community, by their experience of seeking services for mental health and addiction issues.”

The Marin Multicultural Center has been running programs serving low-income Latin American, immigrant and native residents for over 20 years. According to the proposal he submitted to the county, most of the roughly 5,000 people it serves each year are low-income people of color and over 90% are Latinos, mostly immigrants or the children of immigrants. .

The proposal said Marin Health Advocates of Marin “would extend the reach of the corporate resource center to people from underrepresented and disadvantaged communities, and provide culturally appropriate services.”

The proposal also stated: “Working with the MCM will enable us to become more aware of and able to respond to racial, ethnic, generational and historical traumas that must also be addressed to successfully provide services to those who have too often suffered suffering as well. serious. indignities.

However, Chandra Alexandre, CEO of Community Action Marin, said, “We are absolutely a trauma-informed agency that prioritizes racial and economic equity. This is who we are and what we do. That’s not why we didn’t get the contract.

CAM’s proposal also included several passages promising a commitment to equity and trauma-informed care.

For example, he said, “We help clients address the lingering realities of poverty and systemic racial inequalities; We place particular emphasis on cultural awareness, trauma-responsive practices, and reflective listening, so that staff deepen their understanding of their areas of privilege and biases and respond appropriately.

Alexandre said Community Action Marin maintains a $ 2 million per year contract with the county to provide mental health peer education. She said about two-thirds of the organization’s $ 20 million budget is for child and family services. CAM provides child care as a recipient of the Head Start grant for the county and with funding from the California Department of Education.

Maya Gladstern, who will lead the board of directors of Mental Health Advocates of Marin, said her group has been lobbying the county for years to adopt federal recommendations from the Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration. (SAMSA).

“SAMSA specifically says that your board should be made up of 51% consumers,” Gladstern said.

Gladstern said CAM is unable to meet this requirement as it is a “community action agency”, she said under federal law these agencies must maintain a tripartite council made up of a third of consumers, a third of community professionals and a third of people appointed by the government. entities.

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