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Black Health and Wellness: How Local Leaders Fill Health Equity Gaps for the Underserved

Black History Month is an international, month-long celebration that recognizes the achievements and resilience of African Americans.

Each year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) chooses a theme. For 2022, the focus is Black Health and Wellness, highlighting the legacy of black scholars and leaders in health care who have improved quality, whole-person health care for African Americans.

Because of various factors - including lack of access to quality healthcare, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias - African Americans have historically suffered health disparities. For generations, social determinants of health (SDoHs) have prevented many minority groups from having fair opportunities to enjoy economic, physical, and emotional health.

At Elevate Health, we seek to highlight exceptional community members who work to fill health equity gaps in Pierce County for systemically underserved communities.


ASHLEY MANGUM, MSW, LICSW, PROJECT MANAGER FOR KIDS MENTAL HEALTH PIERCE COUNTY

Ashley Mangum


Ashley Mangum, MSW, LICSW, Project Manager for Kids Mental Health Pierce County (KMHPC)

Ashley Mangum, MSW, LICSW, is a Tacoma native and Project Manager for Kids Mental Health Pierce County (KMHPC). In this role, Mangum has become a driving force behind the Youth Engagement Services (YES) program. This collaborative treatment model provides behavioral health assessment and brief intervention to eligible students in the Tacoma, Puyallup, and Sumner-Bonney Lake School Districts. We salute Mangum, KPMHC and the YES Program, which has provided services to more than 400 eligible students in Pierce County.

YES Team Photo

Ashley Mangum (far left) with the Mary Bridge Youth Engagement Services (YES) Tacoma Team

Mary Bridge Children's Hospital is the backbone organization of Kids' Mental Health Pierce County. A steering committee of community leaders helps guide the work of action teams dedicated to four specific areas:

1) Increasing mobile crisis services

2) Increasing access and care coordination

3) Supporting workforce development

4) Developing a family-wellness center that can serve the holistic needs of families caring for children and youth with behavioral needs.

The Mary Bridge Emergency Department in 2021 served a total of 1,375 youths whose chief complaints were behavioral health issues. Resources such as the KMHPC multidisciplinary teams and behavioral health navigators have been useful resources in helping develop safe and coordinated discharge plans for youths that sought care at Mary Bridge.

KMHPC Team

Chris Ladish, Chief Clinical Officer (left), Ashley Mangum (center) and Jamie Kautz, Administrator of the Pediatric Care Continuum at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital (right)

Listen to Elevate Health Podcast to learn more about Mangum's leadership in Pierce County to improve youth behavioral health services.


SHARON MANIER AND BETTYE BLAKENEY, CO-FOUNDERS OF OUR SISTER'S HOUSE

Our Sisters' House (OSH), headquartered in Tacoma, first opened its doors in January 1995. OSH, the dream of former counselor Sharon Manier, operated as a group home aimed at creating a safe, supportive environment for Black and Brown girls coming out of the Juvenile Justice System. At its start, the eight-bed facility provided case management, life skills instruction, mentoring, job and education assistance, and memberships to the YMCA. By 2003, when OSH closed its group home operations, the organization had served more than 350 girls and young women.

Today, OSH, has shifted its focus to become a social services organization. Still serving primarily African American women and children impacted and victimized by domestic violence, OSH offers a range of culturally specific programs, which, among other things:

  • Addresses juvenile family violence;
  • Supports children who have witnessed violence;
  • Operates a support group for African American women domestic violence survivors, and;
  • Provides advocacy programs that assist women fleeing their abusers.
Our Sister's House Bettye Blakeney and Sharon Manier

Sharon Manier (left) and Bettye Blakeney (right)

OSH co-founder Sharon Manier earned a degree in Sociology and subsequently worked for several social services organizations. Ms. Manier moved to Tacoma in the early '80s and became a court appointed special advocate (CASA) and a Drug and Alcohol Counselor at Remann Hall, Tacoma’s juvenile detention center. During her work with youth, Manier noticed Black and Brown girls were becoming entrenched in the juvenile justice system. She wanted to create a positive, uplifting, and motivating environment to prevent teen girls from re-entering the system.

Bettye Blakeney, the other OSH co-founder, graduated from Andrews University and worked at Auburn General Hospital as a Registered Nurse before becoming a Nursing Instructor at Seattle Central Community College and Highline College. Ms. Blakeney followed her sister-in-law, Sharon Manier, in realizing their shared dream of a group home for girls of color.

Listen to Elevate Health Podcast to learn more about how OSH seeks to end the cycle of violence through its youth programming, education, outreach and advocacy strategies.

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