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Louisiana Mental Health Coalition Bringing Mental Illness to the Forefront of State Discussion

OPELOUSAS – For the first time, Louisiana is taking a team approach when it comes to dealing with mental health.

On January 17th, the Louisiana Mental Health Coalition was founded in order to unify mental health advocacy groups across the state.

The LMHC held a convening in Opelousas with some of these mental health partners for the first time.

“There wasn’t really a unified group of advocates speaking on behalf of those with mental health issues,” says Caroline Meeham, the Director of Government and Community Relations with Volunteers of America, “So we want to be that voice.”

The LMHC is using a community based approach, combining resources and brain power in providing the right resources for those struggling with mental illness.

“People in our state are really good about getting on board,” says Bambi Polotzola, Executive Director for the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs, “I think there’s a misunderstanding of mental health issues. So this is a great opportunity to get out the information and bring people to the table. And to continue that’s gonna – we’re gonna see the benefits.”

One of those benefits of the coalition will be more resources for family members of those with mental illness.

“What we know is that when there is a lack of community based health services, the burden on family members is enormous,” explains Meeham.

While there is still a long way to go in improving mental health services in Louisiana, these gatherings of professionals and people who deal with the debilitating illness are a great first start.

Explains Polotzola, “I think they grow by doing these meetings across the state and working in partnership with the governor’s office, with office of behavioral health which is in the Louisiana Department of Health and just continue to have that voice.”

Adds Meeham, “We want to build a coalition that’s strong and nimble and ready to respond and not always on our heels fighting against cuts but really advocating for the kind of services we want to see in this state.”

Anyone who wants to be a part of the mental health coalition is welcome to email them at lamentalhealthcoalition@gmail.com.