HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Wolf Administration was joined by the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Human Services to strengthen its support to mental health and substance use disorder services for historically marginalized people in the state.

The Governor’s Office of Advocacy and Reforms and the Advisory Commissions on Latino, Asian Pacific American and LGBTQ Affairs, as well as the Pa. Legislative Black Caucus, joined community organizations to promote equal services that are trauma-informed and culturally competent.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear the systemic impact of racism and bigotry, and how resulting inequities can adversely affect the mental and physical health of individuals within historically marginalized groups – including racial and ethnic minorities and the LGTBQ community,” DHS Acting Secretary Meg Snead said.

Secretary Snead also took the time to inform the community of a helpline created in 2020 to provide crisis counseling.

“I encourage anyone struggling with mental health challenges to contact the Persevere PA Support and Referral Helpline at 1-855-284-2494. The helpline is staffed with professional caseworkers trained in trauma-informed and culturally competent care who can assess needs and provide appropriate referral to community resources to children, teens, adults and special populations, including historically marginalized groups,” Snead said.

DHS officials also mentioned that while the pandemic extended inequalities, that they’ve existed since before COVID. The Wolf Administration has strived to make health equality a priority as part of its current racial equality mission.

“The collision of the overdose epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic further brought to light health inequities for particular racial and ethnic populations across Pennsylvania,” DDAP Secretary Jen Smith said. “In our latest round of grant funding to Recovery Community Organizations, we included language specifically related to ensuring minority populations have access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services. As you have heard today, the Wolf Administration is committed to ensuring that no matter your race, ethnicity, or background— all Pennsylvanians should have equal access to life-saving resources.”

“We have seen an increase of mental health concerns during the pandemic in the Hispanic/Latinx communities and, as a result, the Latinx communities run a higher risk because of the stress of facing discrimination while also trying to navigate through services with language barriers. Our goal is to continue to educate and bring awareness of social services to these minority communities and to aggressively address social determinants of health for our most vulnerable populations,” Luz Colon, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs said.

Officials are also asking the community to help spread awareness of the problem and come together to make it better.

“Minority Mental Health Month is helping to focus attention on the problem, and we hope more people in our minority communities will not only become aware of the resources and services that are available to them, but also that members of our communities will understand that they are not alone, there are others facing the same challenges, and it is ok to look for help,” Stephanie Sun, Executive Director of the Governor’s Commission on Asian Pacific Affairs said.