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Commentary...Terri Lee Freeman

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For more information, visit www.thecommunityfoundation.org.

Losing a job, facing foreclosure or not being able to afford prescriptions can be overwhelming, even life-threatening.

That’s why commentator Terri Lee Freeman says it’s important to consider the mental health and well being of our region’s most vulnerable individuals and families.

Freeman is president of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

What do you think? Tell us at Conversation dot WAMU,org. Click on "Commentary Forum"

SCRIPT:

If you are like me, you might be planning vacation. We work hard all year, juggling work, family and other demands. Vacation provides much-needed time to decompress and rejuvenate.

But this year, as I pack my bags, I am particularly mindful that vacation in these times is a luxury that many in our region can’t afford.

The economic crisis continues to pose major challenges to our region’s families and nonprofit organizations. In addition to the need for food, shelter and clothing, we can’t overlook the psychological impact of losing one’s livelihood, home or health insurance, not to mention the emotional toll of the economic crisis on those who didn’t have homes or jobs to begin with.

With that in mind, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region recently awarded grants, through its Neighbors in Need Fund, in support of mental health programs throughout the region.

Since the recession began, more people, including the “new poor,” have been showing up at community health clinics, many without health insurance and many in need of mental health services. Non-profits have been reporting alarming trends, such as an increase in substance abuse, domestic violence and the number of calls to local suicide hotlines.

Community Foundation grants have helped organizations serve uninsured residents, provide culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services, extend clinic hours and restore staff positions that had been cut. They have also provided mental health services to homeless individuals and families, reached underserved neighborhoods in Southeast Washington and Prince George’s County, supported mental health services for Latino families and provided access to prescriptions.

There’s a saying, says Satira Streeter, the only licensed clinical psychologist in Ward 8, “When rich people catch a cold, poor folk catch pneumonia." Well, we’re definitely seeing pneumonia.

Yet, Dr. Streeter adds, “By recognizing that good mental health care is a necessity and not an option, The Community Foundation is truly helping our neighbors in need rebuild their lives and their families.”

As you plan your vacation, I encourage you to consider your neighbors and join me in ensuring the well being of all our residents.

I’m Terri Lee Freeman

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