Earlier this week, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that $21 million in federal funding will be available to bolster the state's mental health workforce.

This led The Children's Agenda and "Partners in Community BIPOC PEEEEEK" to start a discussion on how these funds can be best serve children in Rochester.

Sarah Taylor, founder of Partners in Community of Black Indigenous People of Color PEEEEEK Parent Mental Health Project, says Rochester was labeled as one of 13 cities in the U.S. most affected by COVID-19 and mental health. 

She explains the reason for the impact is the distrust in the medical community among communities of color, lack of access to health care and the negative stigma associated with mental health issues.

"We know mental health doesn't discriminate, but we know who are the most vulnerable populations," said Taylor. "We need to prioritize the mental health needs and culturally responsive services of children of color, particularly in high-poverty areas." 

With the Rochester City School District set to receive $196 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and an additional $87 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, The Children's Agenda is putting out a petition on how the money can be best spent to benefit the mental health needs of children.

It is asking the district to hire 20 restorative coaches over the next four years to address conflicts at schools and implement more preventive practices to allow kids to talk about issues, with support from adults and their peers.

"They may act out. They may injure themselves or others, so we just want the community to understand that this is a dire situation, and we want community leaders to devote resources and some positivite movement forward," said Bridget Hurley of The Children's Agenda.

Dr. Myra Mathis, a psychiatrist, added that faith leaders play an important role in a community's mental health.

"My faith community was the other part of my family," she said. "They provided me with a support and encouragement. I'm a first-generation college graduate. I'm a first-generation physician, and I credit a lot of my success to the community that supported me, and I believe young people growing up in poverty need that kind of support. It bolsters resilience. It helps them overcome challenges," Mathis said.