Two Kentucky CHHSM Agencies Forge Partnership to Help Fill Mental Health Care Needs of the Community

Abby Drane (SCS/B&B) and the Rev. Dr. Jamesetta Ferguson (MOLO Village) during CHHSM’s Annual Gathering in March. Photo credit: The Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry.

Two Louisville, Ky., health and human service agencies are partnering to improve services to the Russell neighborhood of Louisville. The partnership began thanks to a conversation between Abby Drane, president and CEO of Seven Counties Services/Bellewood & Brooklawn (SCS/B&B), and the Rev. Dr. Jamesetta Ferguson, president and CEO of MOLO Village Community Development Corporation (CDC), and senior pastor of St. Peter’s UCC in the Russell neighborhood.

Conversations had begun when Drane, then-Board chair of the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, worked with Ferguson to bring MOLO Village into CHHSM. Their discussions eventually moved toward their shared vision of becoming partners in ministry.

“I reached out to Abby for help with some of our residents who were struggling with their mental health,” said Ferguson. “We had several conversations and determined that a partnership was doable, but also necessary to improve the lives of the people we serve.”

“Through this partnership,” Drane added, “we hope to be able to better understand the neighborhood we are serving and — together — provide improved, inclusive, and equitable support to Russell residents.”

Although SCS/B&B already was providing mental health services in Jefferson County — of which the Russell neighborhood is a part — “it made sense that we work to provide the needed service in a partnership manner,” said the Rev. Samantha Jewell, chaplain at Bellewood & Brooklawn, in order to provide services in a more seamless manner.

MOLO Village in the Russell neighborhood of Louisville. Photo credit: UCC News.

MOLO Village is located in the Russell neighborhood. The word “MOLO” means “welcome” in Xhousa, a South African dialect. MOLO’s inclusive village consists of five “hamlets” (or programmatic areas), each with a unique focus that grows a community of healthy, engaged and productive residents preparing to take their families and their neighborhood on a path to prosperity. It provides services to children, families, older adults, and adults recently released from incarceration.

The partnership between SCS/B&B and MOLO Village “provides a variety of diverse support for our community,” said Ferguson. “It’s important for the people in our community to build trust with health providers on all levels of service. Having a diverse group to support helps to build that trust. It is sometimes easier for people to open up to health providers that look like them and understand their journey and cultural experiences.”

Part of that partnership involves learning how best to work together. SCS/B&B is “beginning this process and listening to Jamesetta and her team to determine the best way to move forward, instead of prescribing to the neighborhood what they ‘should’ do,” Jewell said. In this way, she added, “we are hoping to break down some of the barriers and stigma associated with behavioral health care.”

One of the ideas currently being discussed is for B&B to expand its services to children and families in the MOLO Village space. Jewell was so excited about the possibilities that she called UCC Indiana-Kentucky Conference Minister the Rev. Dr. Chad Abbott, to help brainstorm funding possibilities. Abbott immediately saw the potential.

“In 2020, the Indiana-Kentucky Conference became a WISE (Welcome, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged) for Mental Health Conference,” said Abbott. “When Rev. Jewell presented the idea to me about partnership and potential funding, my mind immediately moved to the [conference’s] WISE Team and all the expanding ways that mental health and community health, and matters of justice, interact.”

Abbott took the vision to the WISE Team, whose members decided to invest in the project. “On the spot, they committed $5,000 toward the start of this new ministry in Louisville,” Abbott said.

Not only did the WISE Team commit funds, it also recently challenged the UCC congregations in the conference to contribute money towards the new ministry, “in hopes that between our churches, we could match [the Team’s] $5,000,” said Abbott.

In a recent letter to the churches, Abbott said, “Go back to your mission committees and church councils and tell this story of commitment and offering mental health services to children and families in Louisville … and encourage your leadership to offer a financial donation to matching the WISE Team’s $5,000 gift. … It can be a small gift, a large gift — the size of the gift is not nearly as important as your commitment to seeing this important work thrive in Louisville.”

The matching challenge will provide a much-needed basis for the new partnership to grow. Though still in the discussion stage as MOLO Village and SCS/B&B determine the best ways to offer services, the future is bright. “We must all make sure that we have the [financial] margin to meet the needs of mission,” said Jewell, so “the ask to our partner church families will help the work we are doing for the greater community. This is the beginning stages of our work together, and planning for the future.”

Ferguson agreed. “The mission of MOLO Village is to transform, empower, and renew the lives of those we serve through education, community service, advocacy, and healthy living,” she said. “Our vision is that the Russell residents are healthy, engaged, productive, and prepared to take their families and neighborhood on a path to prosperity. However, for some, prosperity is unachievable because of poor mental health and negative thoughts that saturate their minds and rule their lives. I am praying that this partnership will open up the availability for mental health support in our communities, but also [our communities’] willingness to actively use these resources.”

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