NILES, Ohio – Finding ways to bridge the gap among the medical, mental health and legal systems of care is the goal of an upcoming symposium this February in Niles.
Unmute the Uncomfortable: A Professional Development Symposium on Racial Justice, Mental Health Awareness & Suicide Prevention, will bring together members of law enforcement, medical professionals, educators and advocates to educate the community and look for ways to collaborate.
The day-long event is being presented by Coleman Health Services and will feature a variety of topics including racial disparities in health care, developmental trauma and adverse childhood experiences.
The symposium will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 4, at the Eastwood Event Center.
“I hope to see our systems working together and being able to acknowledge mental health symptoms and how racial justice does impact individuals,” says Katie Cretella, director of clinical services at the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board.
Cretella, previously employed by Coleman Health Services, says the idea for the symposium came from her experience working in crisis services.
“It’s interesting to see that the nation is now moving towards social workers going out with law enforcement. Because we’ve been doing that here in Trumbull County and many counties in Ohio do that,” she says.
One of the speakers at “Unmute the Uncomfortable” will be Kevin Richardson, a defendant in the “Central Park Five” case, which was made into a Netflix miniseries, “When They See Us.”
In 1989, Richardson and four friends were wrongfully accused a raping a woman in Central Park, New York. He served seven years in prison before being exonerated in 2002.
Also speaking at the event will be Laurese Glover, who was charged with a murder he didn’t commit in Cleveland in 1995. He was exonerated through the Ohio Innocence Project in 2015.
All proceeds from the symposium will benefit the Ohio Innocence Project and Coleman Health Services.
“These aren’t just stories that are made into Netflix documentaries that are once-in-a-lifetime stories. These are things that do take place,” says Cretella.
She adds that mental health professionals want to advocate for law enforcement and see it succeed “because we’re here to serve the public the same way they are.”
Malik Mostella, community liaison for the Youngstown Police Department, says the Mahoning Valley is in a good position to have these conversations because many of the events involving law enforcement that make national headlines aren’t happening here.
“We’re going to be discussing issues and situations that have happened and the outcome of those situations. How things could have been done differently,” he says.
Mostella says most situations can be de-escalated through communication. “If the officer asks you a question, answer the question. If you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation,” he says.
Carmella Hill, director of behavioral health at Coleman Health Services, will speak on diversity and supporting clients of color.
She says a big focus will be on multicultural competence, which aims to raise awareness of symptoms and the attitudes and beliefs about race and ethnicity.
“It’s really paying attention to the trauma behind racial issues and the increase of mental health issues as a result of that trauma,” Hill says.
One issue facing people of color, she says, is vicarious trauma, which occurs when an isolated incident becomes how people perceive an entire population.
“That becomes a heavy burden to people of color who feel like they are looked at differently because of one situation,” she says.
Tickets for Unmute the Uncomfortable are $100 and can be purchased at ColemanHealthServices.org.
Continuing education credits are available. These include credits for therapists and social workers, attorneys, nurses, school counselors and emergency medical technicians.
Pictured at top: Carmella Hill, director of behavioral health at Coleman Health Services, will discuss attitudes and beliefs about race and ethnicity.