Dr. Charlayne Hayling-Williams, founding president of Community Wellness Ventures discussed behavioral health and the business behind it on the AFRO show, “Chicken Boxx.” (Screenshot)

By Carl Thomas
Special to the AFRO

Behavioral health describes the connection between the health and well-being of the body and the mind. This can include a variety of areas – everything from eating and drinking habits, to exercise and various mental health challenges. It is the way your habits affect your mental and physical well-being.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated quarantine, has exposed a myriad of underlying issues plaguing the African American community. Many  have come to realize that perhaps they were utilizing other people versus actual coping mechanisms to alleviate stress or lessen the weight of responsibilities. Without those human support systems in place, the spotlight has turned to behavioral health and how the habits we cultivate directly impact our decision making and quality of life.

A recent episode of the AFRO’s “Chicken Boxx” with hosts Kevin “Mpeckable” Peck, the Rev. Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper and Micha Green, featured Founding President of Community Wellness Ventures Dr. Charlayne Hayling-Williams.  The show facilitates fact-based discussions on topics germane to Black life in America and this episode was supported through JP Morgan Chase, from whom Dr. Hayling-Williams received a helpful PPP loan to continue supporting the behavioral health and overall wellness of the community.

Community Wellness Ventures, is a D.C. based, minority-owned business providing comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adolescents, families and persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Opened in 2015, Community Wellness Ventures has been able to successfully integrate human services, mental health and addiction treatment.

“We are attempting to essentially heal systemic oppression help heal our people from a lot of the elements of systemic oppression,” declared Dr. Hayling-Williams. The entrepreneur and behavioral health practitioner discussed in great detail the myriad of impediments to success facing the African American Community, particularly those with the highest poverty. 

Violence, homelessness, access to wealth and access to resources to support entrepreneurship are all described as major impediments to success for those attempting to mitigate the effects of poverty. “Community Wellness Ventures is here to provide, improve upon, shine a light on and ultimately show what works. What interventions are the most effective in ameliorating the effects of poverty, with behavioral health being at the core,” Haylings-WIlliams said.

Dr. Hayling-Williams outlined the differences in the identification and treatment of mental health disorders as compared to substance use disorders, pointing out that “behavioral health marries the two.”

The prevailing thought in the Black community has historically been that access to behavioral health care is not only unnecessary, but also associated with the habits of Caucasians and, therefore, an inappropriate tool for Black people.  

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, more than ever, that access to behavioral health care is key to Black communities, such as in the Anacostia neighborhood of Southeast, D.C., where Community Wellness Ventures is located.  According to the CDC, in late June of 2020, 31 percent of adults reported anxiety or depression symptoms, 26 percent reported trauma or stress related disorders, 13 percent said they had increased substance use and 11 percent even had serious suicidal thoughts. 

With pandemic-related financial issues affecting many businesses, Dr. Hayling-Williams found herself in need of resources to continue addressing behavioral health challenges during the coronavirus crisis.  As Community Wellness Ventures is necessary more than ever, JPMorgan Chase’s PPP loan helped in ensuring that Hayling-Williams could continue serving the people and paying her staff.

“The PPP loan facilitated by Chase allowed us to continue to pay our employees and expand our reach in ways that we can’t typically right now, because we are usually in the community doing outreach,” Dr. Hayling-Williams said. “Now we have built our infrastructure around systems integration and are focusing on our online platforms to grow the business.”

For more information on Community Wellness Ventures visit https://www.cwellnessv.com/ and to learn about the PPP loans and resources provided by JPMorgan Chase visit: https://www.chase.com/business/loans.