Since 1967, Westside Community Services has been in place to help individuals, groups, and communities rise above the disparities and injustices that are forced upon them due to disadvantages in health, housing, education, and income. Located in the Fillmore,
Westside Services serve a vast majority of African Americans who receive resources to better improve their access to mental and physical health services, affordable housing, jobs and education due to the organization of Westside. The Fillmore has a rich history and legacy that has a lasting impact on the mental health services that Westside provides.
CEO Mary Ann Jones and Kia Wallace, Ajani Program manager, met with us to discuss how Westside combats the city’s lack of mental health resources by providing Afrocentric based programs to residents in the area.
Why Mental Health Services Matter: Mary Ann Jones and Kia Wallace
Black Infant Health Program
Black Infant Health is a mother’s pregnancy program focusing specifically on helping black mother’s in San Francisco. Located in the Fillmore, the group provides a 10 week prenatal program and a 10 week postpartum program designed to help mothers with their pregnancy journey and new life style. The program empowers women, promotes healthy relationships, connects women to services within their community, and improves healthy births all while focusing on mental health. To learn more, visit: http://www.
The NoVA Program
Around 700,000 people return from state and correctional facilities annually, out of which, 10% are homeless before doing their time and after.
Ex-Felons face multiple obstacles not only in finding housing, but reintegrating into society as well. This is why recidivism rates in the Bay Area is approximately at 75%. This means out of the 13,544 of people who left prison (2015) – 10,158 reoffended.
In the context of San Francisco where homelessness has plagued the city, the high prices in rent have not helped ex-felons wither.
However, in face of the issues of ex-felon homelessness, and all the facets that go into recidivism, Westside focus to tackle them through reintegration services via psychological, economic, and substance abuse control programs. To learn more, watch the video provided.
History of Westside and Mental Health
The Westside story begins in 1963 with the passing of The National Community Mental Health Act. This Act allowed the four founders; Percy Steele, Thomatra Scott, Yori Wada, and Chris Matthews, to secure funding in order to be able to ‘meet the needs of the disenfranchised minority communities of San Francisco, who were primarily residing in the Western Addition Catchment Area.’
The initial Federal grant was written by Dr. William Goldman in 1968 who strongly believed that quality mental health care should be accessible to all and that initiative started full operation in 1969. It was very important to the founders that the City would collaborate with existing health facilities to take advantage of everything possible.
Westside’s vision is “to be the premier provider and manager of services of care.” Their mission statement is “to provide high quality, family-centered, culturally competent behavioral health and human services.” Westside values innovation, integrity, diversity, consumer focus, growth and development.
Services Under Westside:
- Black Infant Health
- Child and Adolescent Services
- Adult Mental Health Services
- HIV Services
- Substance Abuse Services
- Community Services
- No Violence Alliance (NoVA)
The programs that Westside provides did not happen all at once. Westside is an organization that is constantly growing and expanding so that it can cater to the needs of the individuals within the community. Each and everyone of these programs were developed over time to meet the needs of the community. These programs were cultivated by groups of people, activist in their own right. They saw the need for these services within the Fillmore and created these programs to help alleviate the issues that plague the black community. It is through organizations like Westside that the black community is able to obtain resources necessary for their survival in a city like San Francisco.