On April 7, the L.A. County Department of Mental Health (DMH) hosted a meeting of the faith-based Advocacy Council as an opportunity for government representatives and religious leaders to discuss community needs and seek solutions regarding mental health issues, homelessness and substance abuse.

Robin Kay, acting director of the DMH, said her goal is to “move out from the brick-and-mortar image” of the institution to one that reaches the community with the help of the newly created faith-based council.

The department’s budget for 2016-2017 will be used for collaborative projects, including training of congregations, working on creative approaches to eliminate and reduce homelessness, improve foster children services and a reentry program for former prisoners, Kay said at the meeting.

The meeting also addressed the problem of language barriers in outreach efforts. In the area covering the San Gabriel Valley, first-generation Asians have difficulty in navigating the health system. The Hispanic community is facing the same problem in South Los Angeles.

Special mention was made of one collaborative effort to aid the homeless. Buddhists and Catholics have partnered to support homeless people on Skid Row, through the Society of St. Vincent De Paul and the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist nonprofit that offers affordable health services.