Summit reignites mental health advocates’ commitment to serve

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By Alice Thomas Tisdale

JA Publisher Emerita

A Bridge of Hope was reinforced three-fold at the Mississippi Mental Health Faith-Based Summit at the Jackson Convention Complex April 25, 2024. The keynote address was delivered by Monty Burks, PhD, CPRS, Deputy Director, Governor’s Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, State of Tennessee. 

“The goals of a faith-based second chance initiative are to connect individuals struggling with addiction to treatment; facilitate understanding of treatment and recovery; increase knowledge about addiction; understand the continuum of care and collaborate with it; help groups understand and implement evidence-based practices; and promote and continuously improve effectiveness of the faith-based initiative and how it connects the community with recovery and support services,” he shared with over 200 participants. 

The morning session moderator was Rev. Reginald Buckley, Pastor, Cade Chapel MBC, who eloquently engaged panelists Jennifer Biard, Senior Pastor, Jackson Revival Center (JRC); JaRon Brown, LCSW, Youth and Young Adult Ministry Leader, JRC; Gregory Gordon, M.D., Psychiatrist; and Neelley Hicks, Pastor, Executive Director, Harper Hill Global, in a lively discussion on their hope for acceptance of those who don’t conform to one size fits all. 

Lisa Bryant, PT, DPT, Associate Professor, UMMC, recited her inspiring poem regarding postpartum depression during the luncheon. And Haley Allen, Vivian Joyce Gibson, Natalie Moore, and Sidney Smith III shared lived experiences associated with mental health during the afternoon panel discussion moderated by Mark Stovall, Division Executive Director, West American Addiction Centers. 

The summit concluded with a call to action by Misty Bell, EdS, LCPC, CRC, CMHT, Division Director of Substance Use Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Department of Mental Health. 

“The significance of this summit cannot be overstated. In a state where faith and community are deeply intertwined, the collaboration between churches, communities, and mental health providers is essential in addressing the mental health needs of our residents,” stated Wendy Bailey, Executive Director, Mississippi Department of Mental Health.

The summit was a collaboration between the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, the Congregational Recovery Outreach Program (CROP), and the Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSphi). 

“We’re here not just to explore and learn, but to empower each other and weave faith and mental wellness into the very fabric of our communities across Mississippi, together,” said Toy Hart, CEO, MSphi. 

Participants also took advantage of mental wellness resource materials provided by a number of exhibitors during breaks. 

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Summit reignites mental health advocates’ commitment to serve

By Jackson Advocate News Service
May 6, 2024