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UT Austin, local churches to bring mental health services to the African American community

Reports show African Americans are less likely to seek help from mental health professionals. That's why the University of Texas is trying something new.

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas is partnering with churches in east Austin to help bring mental health services to the African American community.

Reports show African Americans are less likely to seek help from mental health professionals. That's why UT is trying something new.

The UT School of Nursing and churches are coming together to hopefully bridge the gap. They're doing it in East Austin, a historically black community. The goal is to give people better access to mental health services and reduce the stigma around getting help.

KVUE stopped by one of the participating churches, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, to hear more about it. This new initiative is called the African American Church-based Mental Health and Wellness program or AMEN.

UT will be essentially bringing services to the church. There will be on-site clinics, education programs and specific mental health training for pastors.

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Assistant Pastor Daryl Horton said there currently aren't enough resources for African Americans in East Austin to even get the help they need and the church is eager to be a part of the solution.

“We don't want to see people suffering in silence,” said Horton. “We don't want to see people trying to deal with this on their own, but they need to know they can come to the church and get help from the school of nursing to help their family members live a better life.”

Part of the project will include training just for pastors to give them techniques to help identify mental health issues within their congregation.

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“We think the training will help to better equip the pastors with the counseling they’re doing, but then it will also expand our network so that we have new referrals and new networks that we can send people to as we become aware,” said Horton.

The Rehoboth Baptist Church is also a part of the new program.

The school of nursing received a $500,000 grant from Austin Public Health this month. This is very much in the beginning stages.

Mental health professors will start coming to churches around October. Dr. Miyong Kim with the UT nursing school said no one who needs help will be turned away.

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