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FSA Service Spotlight: National Family Week Virtual Conference

Since 1895, Family Service Association of NEPA has helped local children, individuals, families and communities achieve their full potential. In honor of their 125th anniversary, this nonprofit organization will share the stories behind their services. Join us every month to learn more about their diverse programs and how you can support their vision of building resilient families and thriving communities—one person at a time.

Event Will Bring Awareness to Stigma & Cultural Disparity in Mental Health Treatment

A sore tooth? We call the dentist. Aches and pains? We call the doctor. We do not hesitate to call for help when something is affecting our physical body, but why do we sometimes neglect our mental health? Why are we afraid to talk about it?

Each year, Family Service Association of NEPA holds the National Family Week Conference, typically the week before Thanksgiving. This year, the conference will be virtual and will address several topics focusing on mental health, highlighting stigma, addressing cultural disparities in treatment and building resilience as we navigate the pandemic.

The day will begin with a panel featuring three local community leaders to address the impacts of COVID-19 and the lessons learned as we move forward. While everyone has felt the impact of the pandemic, it is without a doubt that frontline workers, teachers and youth and their families have felt this tremendously. Jamie Sheridan of the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department; Justin Correll, Principal of Solomon Plains Elementary School – Wilkes-Barre Area School District and Sonya Ayanna Price, Youth Advocate at Step by Step will share their perspectives on how COVID-19 has impacted frontline workers, teachers and youth and families, and how these specific populations have been strengthening in light of difficult times.

Moments of reflection, self-awareness and self-care are especially important in maintaining mental health. Dr. Christine Kiesinger, Founder and Lead Trainer at CEK Communications, will lead participants on a journey to learn how to adjust in times of chaos and shift to a clearer, calmer state. One breakout session will include a focus on stigma by Magen Washilewski, Executive Director of NAMI of Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Mary Butera and Cathy Ryzner, both Certified Recovery Specialists, will address substance use, and Josh Ercole, Executive Director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of PA, Inc., will address gambling, its wide availability and its debilitating effects on mental health.

While addressing mental health, it is also important to address cultural disparities in mental health treatment. People of color are less likely to receive the mental health treatment they need. While some of this may be due to cultural beliefs, there are external factors that have led to this disparity as well. The lack of diversity of providers, availability of interpreters and implicit bias all affect the outcomes of those seeking services. If someone begins services but are affected by the bias of the therapist or provider, they will be more likely to discontinue services. All of these factors have major implications on the mental health of diverse populations.

In partnership with Luzerne/Wyoming Counties Mental Health and Developmental Services, Selena Webster-Bass, MPH, Founder/CEO of Voices Institute, will share her thoughts in a dynamic keynote address, focusing on reducing implicit and explicit bias, advancing mental health services in becoming more inclusive and diverse and understanding the importance of cultural humility.

While we cannot be together this year for everyone’s safety, it is vital that we address these important topics to help strengthen our own mental health, our families and our community. It is also important to remember that PA 211 NE / Help Line is available by dialing 211 or by texting your zip code to 898-211 for information and referrals to emergency human services, including a mental health crisis. PA 211 NE’s highly trained and experienced caseworkers perform telephone crisis services until the caller is out of crisis, has been accepted into care by a mobile crisis worker or there is a warm handoff to a mental health provider. Information on other providers will also be available virtually at the conference as well.

The virtual conference is scheduled for November 19, 2021, from 8:45 a.m. until 1:45 p.m. Online registration is now open. The cost is $20 and $10 for students. There will be a $10 fee for LSW-LCSW/LMFT-LPC credits. Act 48 and CADC credits are available for no additional fee.

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