By Jessica Cerda, WestCare Texas
The capacity to help those in need of mental healthcare and services in San Antonio’s Eastside has significantly increased as a result of the Bridges to Care program, which links individuals to behavioral health services and training through spiritual and faith-based communities.
Bridges to Care San Antonio, modeled after an effective Bridges to Care program in St. Louis, launched in October of 2020. WestCare’s support has enabled training in five core areas at no cost to participating community members: building a behavioral health program, companionship training, Mental Health First Aid, becoming a trauma-informed organization, and suicide prevention.
A recognition luncheon was held on July 18 for the first group of approximately 36 Bridges to Care Wellness Champions who graduated from the program and received certificates for completing 20 hours of Mental Health First Aid training. The three-month training took place virtually from April through June.
Different “Cohorts” are made up of groups of churches where program participants emerge. A study featured in the Journal of Community Psychology found that more African Americans (90.4%) than non-Hispanic Whites reported seeking out their faith leaders instead of going to a mental health professional when experiencing mental health challenges.
“If we know people are more likely to come to us, we owe it to them to be prepared to walk alongside them and be the bridge that helps lead them to the professional help they may need,” said Bridges to Care Near Eastside District 2 Cohort Leader, Mignon R. Jones-Spann with Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. “Too often, mental illness has been the elephant in the room that many families try to ignore. Bridges to Care has allowed the faith community to bring the conversation out of the shadows and into the forefront.”