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* Picture – “Gulshan Yusufzai and Dr. Laurel Benhamida, Department of Public Health Office Health Equity Annual CRDP Meeting”.

MAS-SSF has been involved in reducing disparities since 2007 within the Muslim Community with many of its programs including Shifa for Today Peer Counseling, Al-Afia for Seniors, AMALA Youth Hopeline and Community Education Workshops at the local level. Simultaneously, MAS-SSF has been a part of a statewide effort to reduce disparities called the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP).

CRDP is one of a kind initiative to help reduce mental health disparities within underserved populations in California. It is a statewide effort focusing on prevention and early intervention specifically to prevent challenges faced by a person, so it does not turn into a serious mental health problem. This is critical for the Muslim community due to the trauma and Islamophobia faced by the community prior to arriving in the United States and as Muslims adjust to become part of the American society.

The former CA Department of Mental Health (DMH) developed CRDP as a policy to address the needs of the historically underserved communities. These communities include but are not limited to African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning, and Native American. This was in response to the call for national action to reduce mental health disparities by the former U.S Surgeon General David Satcher.

The CRDP has had 2 phases to continue working with underserved populations. Both phases were made possible due to the long-time efforts of advocates in mental health to pass proposition 63 called the Mental Health Service Act. Proposition 63 requires 1% of taxable income of any one person whose income reaches 1 million or more to be allocated to mental health services in California. This has been occurring from 2004 and still going strong in 2019.

MAS-SSF has been involved in the following ways:

2004 -2008

  • Proposition 63, Mental Health Service Act Passed
  • Gulshan Yusufzai, Current ED of MAS-SSF, was employed by Statewide non-profit that focused on advocacy and policy toward preventing mental health disparities. She was actively involved to represent the Muslim community.

2009 – 2015

  • The focus of phase 1, started in 2019, was to get communities involved to develop reports on telling stories of mental health disparities. The 5 priority populations were African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning, and Native American.
  • As a part of these reports, underserved communities identified community-defined practices that have illustrated positive outcomes to heal community members. For MAS-SSF the community defined practice is called Shifa for Today Peer Counseling Program.
  • MAS-SSF members and Gulshan Yusufzai participated in the California MHSA Multicultural Coalition to support phase 1 of the CRDP as well as to focus on the mental health challenges of other populations not included in the 5 priority groups. This included Middle Eastern communities, people with disabilities, etc.

2016 -2019

  • The 2nd phase of CRDP started in 2016 and will end in 2022.
  • The 2nd phase will support community-defined practices within each underserved community. The goal is to develop and evaluate practices such as the Shifa for Today Peer Counseling program to be culturally and linguistically responsive to reduce disparities. In addition, it will create a diverse, culturally and linguistically public health system which will respond and support vulnerable communities in need.
  • MAS-SSF is implementing Shifa for Today Peer Counseling Program. As a result, 40 Certified Peer Counselors have been trained and ready to help the community.