Archives for category: Cultural Understanding

incredible hulkI could not help but write having come to understand, I, Bruce Wheatley have been labeled as an Angry Black Man. While, I might be green in character, I realize this stereo type was headed my way due to the nature of my work to speak truth to power.  It’s not as if we have not heard this label used before. It appears typical coming from those intimated by intelligence, passion, courage, and god fearing Black Men.

I received an athletic scholarship from both the University of Arizona and Texas at San Antonio; I have traveled the world an ambassador of USA Basketball; I am the son of one of California’s most respected Prison Facility Captains (May The Captain rest in Peace) I have worked with hundreds of children, youth and young adults over 16 years here in LA County. Among all those individuals that have spent any significant amount of time with me, refer to me as a soft-spoken Gentle Giant.

So the notion, I Bruce Wheatley am all of a sudden an angry Black Man because I speak truth regarding the Department of Mental Health Executive’s biased and discrimination decision-making that adversely affects the health and well-being of African-Americans, confirms DMH Executives are up to no good and have something to hide in their attempt to discredit me.  Keep in mind…This is system executives speaking.

As the former Co-Chair of the DMH Cultural Competence Committee, this does not come as a surprise. DMH Executives assumed having me as the co-chair was being Culturally Competent. Among my population, we call it being a token.  In fact, DMH Executive William Arroyo contributed to a monograph: Toward a Culturally Competent System of Care which revealed tokenism as a process in which individuals are selected to essentially appear as change agents yet, given no authority to make any changes.

Now, I have every reason to be angry as a Black Man.  As does every Black man witnessing the challenges facing our population. However, I see this more as a teaching moment in how to destroy the labels that people put on you.  The kids benefiting from social emotional learning in ICI’s Peer Empowerment Program is taught how to respond appropriately or not based on the situation.

imagesMy kids understand, it’s not what’s on the outside and other people’s negative perception of you; it is how you on the inside perceive yourself and respond to negative stereotypes. My kids understand we use our Defense Mechanism to make either negative or positive decisions.  Will you validate a negative label given to you by another person envious of you?  Dumb, Looser, Lazy, Angry Black Man are simply a reflection of those that are unhappy with themselves and intimated by your good-natured character. The individuals attempt to provoke your character is to throw you off your game, to make their point. Not here, not today, not ever and certainly not with my kids!

To my staff, use real life situations to instruct our kids to make positive decisions. If people were perfect, there would be no reason for social emotional learning. As we continue to positively affect the behavior of future generations, those that attempt to belittle us for selfish gain will diminish.  I could on one and one but I’m busy today. You get my point. Peace.

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I thank each of you for taking time to read my blog. While we’re often pulled in many directions your reading, responding and sharing this information is crucial to building a critical mass of committed stakeholders.  I look forward to seeing each you at our next meeting tomorrowTuesday, January 19th at 1pm.  The Board Agenda is not too lengthy, so we may find ourselves speaking before 4pm.

We will gather in solidarity at 1pm to organize our conversation to ensure the Los Angeles County’s Health Agency:

Immediately opens decision making stakeholder meetings for public participation and comment.

Identify an approach for community integration in transforming the County’s system of care to legitimize the Health Agency through public approval. 

Deliver fully integrated mental health and substance abuse services provided at single site locations.

Establish a multi-cultural governance committee made up of system administrators, contract providers and community-based organization leadership stakeholders to recommend and monitor continuous improvements to the emergent system of care; monitoring expenditures, cost controls, quality of care and implementation of community-defined innovations.

Our intent is to ensure  development of cultural and linguistic proficient system of care as identified as a strategic priority of the Health Agency. 

FYI – Five Bleak Facts on Black Opportunity | Brookings Institution

Thank you for your support !!

As LA Clipper owner Donald Sterling was baited to express his feelings about African Americans, I was reminded of Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s private remarks about the 47% of the country he deems irrelevant as non tax paying citizens.  What stood out most profoundly is Sterling’s admission about his behavior being connected to the culture in which he was raised.  While this country, America I love so dearly was not developed on my back as it was my ancestors, I personally continue to carry the burden of witnessing the difficulty of changing the mindset of Black America who’s mentality is entrenched by such historical discrimination.
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Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t…it’s the players who are put in an unfortunate compromising position. Will Black athletes  stand up for intolerance and boycott the sport they love or slightly turn their head in favor to continue collecting multi-million dollar pay checks to support their families.

What I strive to point out is African Americans are often pit against speaking out about injustice in favor of personal progress. This often involves simply providing for their family versus taking a stance and risk being cut off financially due to what both Sterling and Romney may consider disobedient behavior.

As of  this writing, who knows what will result from Sterling’s comments…will Black America boycott the LA Clippers or NBA? Or simply raise hell outside the arena for a day, go home, suck it up and chalk racism up to the game?

I believe it was Oprah who said it best…there will always be racism until the last bigot dies off. Until then, rest in peace because those that embrace a cultural of racism has kids.

Since sharing my blog site, I’ve received a lot of interesting feedback about my conversations. The most memorable came from a friend who said…Big fella, you’re preaching to the choir…which my response was I understand, now grab your robe because we’re off rhythm. As the director of Inner City Industry, my concerns are likely your concerns. I share this information in an effort to bring to light the many and constant concerns that impede our community and culture.

We’re very much present but off rhythm. Off rhythm in the context of we’re facing one another with our backs turned. Understandably we constantly overlook our shoulders to protect property, relationships and peace of mind as we genuinely trust few. My objective is to point out what we already see and understand yet have little to no discussion about as it relates to our plight while culturally, holding on for dear life. Gentlemen, we’re two generations, some will say three, behind where we should be economically, academically and quite frankly socially. If our next generation comes of age under the hardship the last two generations have endured we will become further torn apart.

Our communities are suppressed by inequality which has resulted constant traumatic experiences that has affected our health and well-being. What I propose is uniting behind Behavioral Health.

Without being overly technical and certainly not wanting to compete against my own design (folk are watching, reading and listening…trust) as this opportunity is among us now, Behavioral Health will provide integrated health and wellness services to children and youth in K-12 education and adult support services at newly established comprehensive behavioral health and wellness centers. The end goal is to establish community wide systems for prevention to educate our young about the challenges that persistently impeded success, systems of early intervention to immediately begin supporting individuals whose needs have gone unmet for years and systems of care to help individuals requiring intensive treatment. Behavioral Health will support and advance all vulnerable communities delivering jobs and services simultaneously.

Despite the mismatch of circumstances we dare to become Champions arriving mentally prepared and motivational ready to compete every game as our journey from disparity to prosperity shall be no different. Therefore, I turn to you as athletes and professionals to stand united for Behavioral Health as we know how to win…yet more importantly, we know how to come from behind to win. In moving forward, we must harness our gift of “seeing the floor” in essence being aware of all moving parts combined with an ability to anticipate as timing is everything when our spirits align to inspire one another when the game is on the line…we become unstoppable.

Fellas, the game is on the line. We must square up shoulder to shoulder, heads high, unbiased, and game face ready. This once in a lifetime opportunity represents our World Cup, Super Bowl and NBA Championship post athletic careers. No one’s coming to advance us but us and oddly enough…we’re waiting on us….all we need is our collective rhythm. Can the Choir say…Amen?

See you on the wood in the hood. B.

I recently pinned this brief to the LA County Department of Mental Health’s Countywide Under-Represented Ethnic Population (UREP) committee when the discussion of disparity within the mental health system favored Asian Pacific Islanders and Latino’s.  The Countywide UREP members consists of department of mental health executives and community representatives.  Subcommittee UREPs are represented by American Indian (AI), African/African American (AAA), Asian/Pacific Islander (API), Eastern European/Middle Eastern and Latino.  I represent both AAA & Latino UREP subcommittees.   Critical to transform delivery of services to rebuild the no longer existent economic “safety-net” the following must be considered.

DISPARITY

In 1963 when Eugene “Bull” Connor, Birmingham, Alabama’s public safety commissioner, turned the fire hoses and attack dogs on its black citizens and children who were demonstrating against Jim Crow’s segregation and their second class citizenship, the nation woke up and realized that it could no longer tolerate the abuses that were being inflicted upon African Americans.  Today, the mental health system has become a symbol of the New Jim Crow as African Americans have become adversely represented across systems, i.e. mental health, health, education, prison, probation and foster care systems.  To that end, African Americans have the highest unemployment and poverty rates by population with several local and national foundations launching initiatives targeting Black Male Achievement.  As “the” root cause of disparity, the African American experience resulting from historical trauma perpetuated since slavery and further suppressed by no American system designed to support non-whites leaves little debate as to the underrepresented ethnic population at greatest risk during this profound opportunity for system restructuring.

CULTURAL COMPETENCE

I noticed agenda item in the Action Notes gathered from the Systems Leadership Team Ad Hoc Committee meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.

II. Review – System Creation vs. Systems Improvement.

We are not creating a system like we did with CSS?

Prop 63 MHSA is specific: Transform delivery of services. Impossible if you don’t transform the system that distributes such services.  System Leadership Team members have expressed their displeasure with the Department of Mental Health which represents as much stigma as contracted service entities.

How does the CSS integration of physical health and substance abuse care in association with federally qualified health centers allow DMH to create and sustain mental parity per the Federal Affordable Care Act Law?   Strapping wings on a caterpillar doesn’t make it a butterfly any more than attempting to plug innovative PEI and ISM practices into a fragmented operating system going to revive or prepare the mental health system for parity.  The mental health system does not need improvements it requires whole-system transformation.  Any effort short of laser-like focus to develop a fully integrated and comprehensive culturally competent mental health system is critically short sighted and risk the legitimacy of DMH and its System Leadership Team.

ACCESS

Each UREP has identified three similar barriers to services cross cultures.

Stigma – Mental health stigma is a mindset, not process.  To date, I have seen no specific nor significant funding allocated to develop culturally competent outreach and engagement processes for individual UREP’s.  Stigma & Discrimination funding targets consumers and does little for individuals trauma exposed and/or in jeopardy of onset.  As long as DMH favors current services providers to deliver PEI practices despite the MHSA calling on new agencies, stigma will prevail.

Inability to serve children and transition aged youth – Every child must pass through K-12 education. Current school based mental health services reek of stigma are fragmented and inappropriately diagnose African American youth whom otherwise endure behavior issues.  The Early Start School Mental Health Initiative resulted nothing more than a process to police our youth.  The project consisted of teams of law enforcement and clinicians…This is not a PEI practice however, a screening process to justify billing requirements as school based mental health services has for over two decades under the current medical model to diagnose and treat.

Lack of a seamless integrated work process – It is inefficient and ineffective to place service providers under one roof “single-site” with multiple billing processes.  Without a process to effectively coordinate core support work process and internal social structure, integrated services will unlikely yield intended outcomes and decrease mental health sustainability.

QUALITY OF CARE

African Americans are constantly identified as overly aggressive, divisive, uncooperative, lazy and uninspired while controlled by unfavorable systems and its leadership that gives little to no account of the generational suppression that has creating such mindset.  Therefore, we lack faith and trust in system leaders and service providers who suggest they understand, yet continue to implement reactive processes that will never meet our community’s needs. Quality of care begins when the system is transformed though an open and transparent processes that intentionally engages the African Americans community in such transformation.

SUSTAINED MENTAL HEALTH OUTCOMES

Over the past decade African Americans fled South LA to Moreno Valley, Palmdale and Lancaster in search of employment at military bases that have since closed.  Sold on the idea of home ownership being the American Dream, African Americans yet again was manipulated by the financial system and its leadership losing its most valued asset.  Failure to simultaneously address systemic, culturally and economic needs in the African American community leave little doubt we will see ever see sustained mental health outcomes as the African American community is slowly but visually being eradicated post America’s worst economic downturn.

The following questions should be consideration by the System Leadership Team and Mental Health Oversight and Accountability Committee going forth.

QUESTIONS

  • Will operationalizing the 3 year program and expenditure planning process be placed for bid?  And, if so, what minimum mandatory requirements will the contracting agency be required to possess, given “systems transformation” has no relevance toward providing care?
  • How will integration of the 3 year plan be sustained for continuous improvements? May the ongoing 5% of innovation reserves be utilized to sustain transformation?
  • Given cultural competence is imperative, what population and/or community will DMH launch transformation of the 3year plan? Or is this decision one based on the logic of the contracted entity?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 will mark the 50th Anniversary acknowledging the March on Washington and we as a country despite having a Black President have little to nothing to celebrate, particularly with Black people being disproportionately represented by population in every adverse statistic.

My prayer is not to witness several civil rights organizations hosting separate rally’s during the anniversary week.   This will only to further demonstrate how fragmented we as Black people have become.  My hope is that we overcome our unique differences and embrace diversity as all American’s endure inequality at this time in history.  My desire is to witness civil rights organizations that participated in the March on Washington nearly 50 years ago united under a common cause which emphasizes community well-being through a reformed education system as bi-partisan leadership has acknowledged education reform as the civil rights issue of the present day.    My prayer is that we reclaim the inspiration that once unified Black people of which has since disintegrated with the passing of Dr. King.

My prayer is that on Wednesday, March 28, 2013 we become a unified country as our individual destiny will be determined by our courage to unite as a country. United we shall overcome. B.