Fresno County wants to increase access to mental health services

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County is trying to give more people access to mental health services. It has a three-year plan in place to bridge cultural gaps and raise awareness.

In Fresno County, there are numerous services backed by millions of dollars for mental health but not everyone has access.

"Barriers to it, resources, availability of those resources to family members, a lot of frustration with the fragmented system," said Christina Roup, who is with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Denise Lancaster-Young joined the conversation Monday to bridge a much-needed gap. She says mental illness in the African-American community tends to go untreated.

Lancaster-Young said, "There's a big stigma in the community for people to say, 'I have a problem,' and that's one of our goals, is to help people speak out and let them know it's OK."

She says without treatment, many young people end up in jail, some end up homeless and those who speak up often just receive prayer. "People just pray for us, like there's some kind of demonic issue we're going through, when it actually isn't, it is an actual illness," said Lancaster-Young.

The county wants to increase access, especially on the west side of Fresno. There are plans to put mental health clinicians in rural police departments, and there is also money earmarked to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

Rosylin Bessard-Dayton, who attended the meeting, said, "It's targeted. It's dead on, providing what we're saying we want to participate in and that is in a cultural awareness piece and getting out there to the community."

Monday's meeting was the final public hearing on the county's mental health plan.
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