Kudos to Mayor Michelle Wu and Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, for creating the much-needed role of chief behavioral health officer for the City of Boston and selecting such an outstanding individual in Dr. Kevin Simon (“Boston’s new mental health czar lays out his goals,” Metro, Aug. 24).
Simon articulated some of the key challenges surrounding mental health, namely the lack of access to providers and care, associated stigma, and how prevention is paramount when it comes to youth. A more systemic public health approach to addressing the rising behavioral health concerns among children is crucial, and the agenda must emphasize prevention and intervention.
For that reason, there is a need to make safe spaces widely available to youth to support the work of behavioral health clinicians. Further, integrating young people’s interests and passions into these safe spaces will keep them engaged and coming back. Some examples of such therapeutic programs are expressive art, music, ecotherapy, and sports-based group therapy, which fosters openness and trust and cultivates new skills and teamwork while promoting physical activity.
Initiatives in workforce development are also vital, as Simon pointed out. Among them, programs should aim to recruit and retain BIPOC therapists, as families look for mental health services that address their cultures and backgrounds.
By coordinating and integrating efforts across the city from community behavioral health organizations, schools, pediatric offices, hospitals, and emergency services, we can ensure access to mental health care and secure its warranted place in our health care system.
Chief program officer
Doc Wayne Youth Services
Doc Wayne is a nonprofit that focuses on the social, emotional, and behavioral well-being of at-risk youth.