Anxiety over the pandemic, social unrest, racial injustice, parental burnout, isolation, and economic instability have taken a toll on our mental fortitude. The last 21 months emphasized the importance of being attentive to our mental health. Many community members expressed that their mental health was tanking -- especially those without the resources to make it a priority alongside other basic needs.

To address this critical need for care, KZCF is mobilizing people, resources and expertise to support a better future for community mental health.

Mobilizing Expertise for Mental Health

Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative
The expertise KZCF holds comes from playing a convener role in community. KZCF engages elected officials, educators, nonprofits, business leaders and individuals across Kalamazoo County. The team uses insights from these interactions to make strategic connections that advance a community where no one faces barriers to a high-quality life.

The Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative is one way the community foundation used community expertise to build an impactful partnership. In 2019, Sarah Lee, KZCF's Director of Marketing Communications, initiated a gathering of local media leaders. They came together to answer one question: How do we work together to better tell the most critical stories in our community?

"Typically, the world of journalism is one of competition. Each news outlet wants to be the first with a story, to scoop its competitors," said Kathy Jennings, managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media. "This collaboration in which news organizations agree to work together is one way to assure that gaps in news coverage are addressed."
In other communities that have tried the collaboration model have found that the work builds on the collective experiences of those in the collaborative.

The initial meeting of media leaders resulted in collaborative reporting on solutions to Homelessness and a Back-to-School series examining how community organizations are addressing barriers to academic success for families whose primary language is Spanish.

"The goal is for this group of newsrooms to generate public conversations and build trust with the community around issues that otherwise might not get the attention they should," Jennings said.

The next issue the collaborative's storytelling will highlight is mental health.

"What solutions are there for this situation? What other areas of mental health deserve our attention as a community? These are the questions we will be exploring," Jennings said. "It is also important to note that we are dedicated to work that is centered in equity. And we will be seeking out stories that lead to community-based change."
The members of the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative currently include:
  • Second Wave Media
  • Now Kalamazoo/The Homefront
  • WMUK Public Radio
  • Nueva Opinion
  • Encore
  • MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette
  • Public Media Network
  • WMU School of Communications
  • WMU Student Media Group
  • Community Voices
  • Watershed Voices

Mobilizing People for Mental Health

Kalamazoo Black & Brown Therapy Collective
The Black & Brown Therapy Collective connects People of Color in community to therapists of color in order to address racial trauma. While KZCF provided financial support to this project, the impact is all about mobilizing the right people. The absence of culturally relevant services creates a barrier between People of Color and appropriate mental health support.

"Community care is so important now and always," said Kama Mitchell, Artistic Director and Queen Doula of Rootead Enrichment Center. "Having lived experiences be reflected back to you from a therapist that has had similar lived experiences can create a healing relationship that supersedes one based on insurance and access. Representation deeply matters for de-stigmatizing Black and Brown mental health."

The BBTC also covers the cost of therapy for residents as financial barriers can also prevent access to mental health support.

Consider making a gift to the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Kalamazoo Endowment Fund to sustain collective healing work and into the generations ahead.

Mobilizing Resources for Mental Health

Check out some of the organizations KZCF partnered with to improve mental health outcomes in Kalamazoo County in the last year.
  • Changes and Beyond: People of Change
  • Community Healing Centers: Early Intervention Program
  • Community Healing Centers: Mental Health as a Continuum of Care amidst COVID-19
  • Douglass Community Association: Fulfilling our Promise to Our Community
  • InterAct of Michigan (services now provided by Integrated Services of Kalamazoo)
  • Integrated Services of Kalamazoo: Set Up Shelter
  • Residential Opportunities, Inc: Affordable Housing Operating Assistance
  • Rootead Enrichment Center: Kalamazoo Black & Brown Therapy Collective
  • The Arc Community Advocates: Adult Advocacy Service

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of mental health related grants made through the community foundation. Additionally, grants and distributions have been made from Advised, Field-of-Interest and Designated Funds.