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Abstract

The struggle to find adequate mental health care is complicated by underlying factors of discrimination, cultural barriers, lack of early recognition, and inadequate resources. Traditionally, it has been difficult to talk about mental health issues because of fear of bias, cultural sensitivities and the lack of a safe place to discuss public concerns. This has left many families to grapple with problems in silence. As a result of President Obama’s call to action on mental health, six deliberative democracy organizations formed an initiative called Creating Community Solutions (CCS). Their goal was to develop a multi-strategy program to respond to the challenges of reducing barriers to mental health and to create greater access to mental health services, especially for youth and underrepresented populations. This article focuses on how practitioners used extensive outreach and designed the process to reduce the inequalities participants can face in deliberation, allowing them to generate action plans for creating more equitable access to services. Through six-hour town hall meetings, community conversations, and an innovative texting platform, over 57,000 persons participated in the project, including community members, people with lived experience, mental health providers and youth.

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