St. Joseph Church in Hawthorne has joined forces with local government officials to form the Clergy Academy, a mental health education program turning out first responders to serve community members struggling with mental illness.

On July 18, 43 church members graduated from the year-long program, which offers free instruction on effective ways of caring for those coping with bullying and harassment, domestic violence, gang violence, and substance abuse, among other difficult situations, according to a press release from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH).

LACDMH Director Marvin Southard, organized the Clergy Academy with the collaboration of Father Greg King of St. Joseph Church. Mental health clinicians teach the course, held on the weekend in both English and Spanish.

Southard says, “A community acting together has a great impact on its well-being and that of its individual members. We wanted to collaborate with Father King and the lay leaders at St. Joseph on developing the community’s capacity for mental wellness.”

The academy, according to Father King, equips participants with “the confidence to recognize the symptoms of sickness and the means of finding resources for authentic healing.”

For information about the academy, call Adrienne Cedro Hament at (213) 738-4395 or email [email protected].