10-26-2016  11:53 pm      •     
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Former Sen. Avel Gordly is the honorary chair of the 9th Annual Liberation-Based Healing Conference, Oct. 3 - 4 at Friends of the Children, 65 NE Stanton St. in Portland.

Although the event happens in October, now is the time to register and make sure you have your spot reserved.  A prestigious national event, the conference was founded by The Institute for Family Services and is co-organized and supported by the Center for Community Engagement at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling.

The Liberation-Based Healing Conference is the annual gathering of therapists, teachers, and community members, activists and youth from throughout the United States to present strategies that promote “relational healing and liberation.”

This year’s theme is, “Speaking Truth to Power: Decolonization through Liberation-Based Healing.”

What sets the event apart from other health conferences is that it gives local health service consumers – and their entire communities – a chance to get actively involved in mental health and to form new alliances for grassroots community change.

“When decolonizing practices are applied to the structures in society (i.e. criminal justice system, community and domestic violence, education, immigration policy, mental health and wellness, religious and spiritual practices, poverty, and youth empowerment), people are free to live a fulfilling life,” organizers say.

Among the many speakers and moderators this year are local African American mental health advocate and professor of counseling psychology Andraé L. Brown, Ph.D., LMFT; Rhea V. Almeida, LCSW, Ph.D., founder of Institute for Family Services; Ohlaysha Hicks, M.S, a Spanish language educator in the South Brunswick School District; Portland State University Native American Student and Community Center Program Coordinator Melissa Bennett; education writer Judy BlueHorse–Skelton, M.Ed.; and keynote speaker Jacqueline Battalora, Ph.D., J.D., attorney and professor of sociology at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.

Advocates say “liberation based healing” is a different way of looking at how people of color really heal from physical and mental health problems – through factoring in aspects of racist oppression that have impacted families and communities through the generations and even centuries of history.

Almeida, based in New York, is a pioneer in “liberation-based” healing and a founder of The Institute for Family Services.

“It is important because it departs from traditional mental health practices that use a ‘deficit model’ of medicalizing individuals and pathologizing them,” she told The Skanner News.

“Despite the focus on evidence-based practices -- which are usually based on white middle-class men -- community racial and health disparities are increasing both in education and the justice system,” she says.

The second day of the conference is free and dedicated to bringing community members in and facilitating lasting projects, relationships and understanding. A standout afternoon panel is    
“Community, Youth and Domestic Violence,” with panelists Beth McNamara, Lisa Dressner, and Andraé Brown.

“The whole point of bringing all these people together is to bring community people into the therapeutic endeavor,” Almeida says. “We don't have strict boundaries between the therapist and the professionals and clients.

“We invite the clients to bring in their community people -- whether it's good friends, their neighbors, whoever they feel are a part of their connected network -- in order to help them through the healing endeavor,” she said.

“We feel that grassroots people, grassroots organizers -- and people in the community living side by side with people that may have particular problems -- are really the ones that we need to work side-by-side with because they are the ones that really hold the keys to sustainable health and mental health.”

Gordly, a long-time champion of people living with mental illness, was selected because of her advocacy and legislative work to improve the mental health of the community.

Everyone needs to register for the conference, even if only attending the free day. Click here to register. http://graduate.lclark.edu/programs/continuing_education/conferences/liberation_based_healing/Registration/ .

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