East Baton Rouge Parish receives $1 million for new mental health initiative

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – An announcement came Saturday that money is coming from congress through what’s known as the BRIGHT initiative. It’s a federal program aimed to treat depression in people with substance abuse problems, particularly in areas that have high rates of trauma. As people still struggle to get back on their feet from COVID, record high inflation is causing even more problems plaguing lower income areas. The money from Washington will go toward clinical services by licensed practitioners.

“So, Congressman Troy Carter, our congressman for this area, was able to allocate through Congress $1 million for mental health care here in East Baton Rouge Parish,” said Mark Armstrong, the chief communications director for the city-parish.

These services will be placed in areas with high rates of crime, substance abuse, and inadequate housing. The city-parish believes in order to have neighborhoods that are not trapped in the endless cycles of violence and trauma, informed mental healthcare is essential.

“It could look like traditional therapy, and very much we have in mind for it to look like traditional therapy. But it can also look like non-traditional therapy. Things like yoga, mindfulness, community activities, community conversations,” Armstrong added.

The city-parish has already devoted several million dollars toward other mental health programs, even things like the new Bridge Center for Hope. But the Bridge Center is only meant to stabilize mentally ill patients. This new program would go directly into neighborhoods in need.

“And to address that, to offer mental healthcare to address that trauma, to break vicious cycles and to break generations of vicious cycles. So, this is a step in that right direction,” Armstrong continued.

“I’m super excited about this. As a person who’s in recovery, who works with people when it comes to trauma and mental health, this is going to be amazing for our community,” said Tonja Myles, a peer support specialist.

Myles knows all too well what it’s like to be in recovery and is providing input on how the money should be spent. From her experience, initiatives like these bring hope to places that need it most.

“Trauma affects everyone, it does not have any demographic, it does not discriminate. However, we’re gonna look at the numbers and see where the need is the most. But when it’s all said and done it’s going to make sure that anyone in our community whose experienced untreated trauma, any kind of challenges when it comes to mental health, get the help that they need,” added Myles.

Officials with the mayor’s office say they hope to have the program rolled out by the fall or at least by the end of the year. The first step is to receive the money

This should come up in the metro council agenda possibly by this week in order to receive the money. After that, they will work with stakeholders, constituents, and the council members to develop a finalized plan.

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