Mental Health Town Hall to ask, "how can the county better serve our African American neighbors?"

January 14, 2019

Leaders at Multnomah County’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Division are asking residents, nonprofit partners and providers to attend a town hall to discuss culturally specific services for African American residents.

The event will be held Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Garlington Center in Northeast Portland. Lunch and childcare will be provided. Space is limited, so please register here.

Town hall to ask residents what they need, how they want to be served

The division wants to continue improving a culturally-specific behavioral health system for historically underrepresented communities including African American residents. Black residents engage in services at lower rates and are less likely than their white neighbors to successfully complete behavioral health programs.

“I think institutionalized racism and institutionalized oppression leave black residents with a natural question of trust when it comes to helping services,” said the division's interim director, Ebony Clarke. “We want to improve those outcomes.”

“Sometimes we get blinded. We are the ones saying, ‘this is what you need to do,’” Clarke said. “My goal for this is to step into the community, to hear from people, in their voices, on how they experience our system. Individuals are the experts. We want to know how we can step into a partnership with the experts of the black community.”

During the event, participants will hear from Clarke and meet division leaders and providers. The audience will learn more about mental health and addiction programs, find out about warning signs, get information about services, and hear a firsthand story of recovery.

Participants will have opportunities to share their perspectives through small group conversations. They can also take part in a question and answer forum and talk directly with program leaders. Division leadership will be asking questions about what is working and not working when it comes to people’s experiences getting services; what barriers or challenges exist, and what efforts have been successful.

“When you receive services and support from people who have the same lived experience, who look like you, and who can reflect the values and traditions you hold, there's a higher likelihood of success,” Clarke said. “But because we are in Portland, there is not an adequate workforce that represents the black community. While we expand culturally specific services as we have the funding and workforce to do so, we also need culturally responsive services.”

The Division encourages community partners to Print and share this event flyer.

For more information or to request free interpreter services, please contact