There are many barriers that keep African-Americans from acquiring mental health services including the stigma of mental illness in the Black community, and for some, a lack of health insurance. However, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services is working to reduce these barriers.
“We’ve been doing a couple special projects like our behavioral health inclusion project working with churches to do more education with the ministry about acceptance, specifically for ministry in African-American churches,” said Mary Jo Dickson, administrator for the Bureau of Adult Mental Health Services, DHS Office of Behavioral Health. “Anything we can get out there to the public helps in making people understand there are services available to the public.”
The county’s mental health department includes a wide range of services including inpatient and outpatient treatment, case management, rehabilitation, residential treatment, and medication management. The county contracts with community organizations that provide the services to county residents.
Among their key partnerships is the resolve Crisis Network, which provides round-the-clock, mental health crisis intervention and stabilization services. This voluntary mental health crisis service is available to county residents regardless of their age, income, or previous mental health diagnosis.
DHS uses state based funding to support individuals without health insurance or income. Those with income are placed on an income-based payment plan. They also provide psychiatric prescription medications at no cost to eligible individuals.
Despite the stigma, Dickson said there has been an increase in the number of mental health services being utilized by the public. According to their numbers there were 40,400 services utilized in the 2010-2012 fiscal year and 58,000 services utilized in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
“Actually there’s been an increase from the 2010-2011 fiscal year to this last fiscal year. We’re doing about 1000 in new services,” she said. “So we’re definitely seeing an increase in the number of services to individuals.”
For more information on DHS mental health services visit For more information on re:solve visit

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