Library director participates in panel on racial equity

Long Branch Public Library Director Tonya Garcia Badillo recently participated as a panel member at the conference “Pathways to Behavioral Health Equity: Addressing Disparities Experienced by Boys and Men of Color.” The March conference was held in Washington, D.C.

Panel members identified ways to improve the behavioral health and life outcomes of boys and men of color. Conversations at the national level included dialogues around policy, practice, research, resource development, consumer education, and promotion and dissemination strategies.

Meeting participants included community advocates, practitioners, researchers and policymakers joining together to share ideas on how to advance work in the areas of gender and identity; profiling, perceptions and stereotypes; health; changing social determinants; and fatherhood.

Solutions for addressing disparities experienced by men and boys of color included discussions of how to forge sustainable partnerships with public and private sectors within communities.

Dr. Nadia Cayce, executive director of the National Leadership Council on African American Behavioral Health, invited Garcia Badillo to attend the panel.

“Tonya’s abilities to engage the community in such a meaningful way led to her selection,” Cayce said. “Her library is by far one of the most innovative community entities I have seen, with unique programs such as the Fresh Start Re-Entry program and an array of community-driven services.”

According to Cayce, the meeting was convened under a banner for psychologists and other behavioral health authorities, but Garcia Badillo’s leadership of the library caught the attention of national leaders, encouraging them to consider public libraries to support the health of urban residents.

Upon her return from the conference, Garcia Badillo said she brainstormed how to bring the panel’s dialogue back to the community and design a library initiative around the need.

“I believe this marks a significant milestone for our library, our city and for public libraries overall. The fact that we have ‘intrigued our national leaders and encouraged them to consider nontraditional resources, such as public libraries, as crucial partners in supporting the health and wellness of young adults in urban communities’ is encouraging,” she said in a press release.

Garcia Badillo will speak about the library’s social-work initiatives at the annual New Jersey Library Association Conference, which will be held April 20-22 at the Ocean Place Spa and Resort in Long Branch.