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Della Blake is tackling mental health disparities in Western Mass.

MassLive recently asked readers to identify people they consider Black leaders in Massachusetts, working to make a difference in politics, education, business, the arts or another area of interest.

Profiles of these leaders will be published leading up to the Juneteenth holiday on June 19. These are people our readers have identified as inspirational, who may be doing good acts for their communities. They are being recognized for their accomplishments, leadership and commitment to inspire change.

Della Blake

Della Blake

Age: 64

Community: Hampden County

Her Story: Della Blake is the director of the Black Behavioral Health Network (BBHN), whose mission is to help people in Hampden County access culturally-appropriate, community-based behavioral health services and achieve better treatment outcomes.

Founded in March 2017, the organization hopes to address mental health service gaps and outcome disparities faced by groups such as veterans, homeless individuals and families, unemployed persons and people battling addition.

Blake came into this position after working for the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department for 34 years. She has also served as the director of the Black Addiction Counselor Education Program, which works to increase the number of Black mental health and addiction counselors in Massachusetts by providing training in these areas.

Establishing culturally-appropriate mental health services and tackling health disparities is a huge mission that takes time, Blake said. She does this work because, over the years, she’s noticed a lack of such services, as well as continuing disparities in Western Massachusetts.

“The need is there. The process is for the long haul,” she said.

Blake’s mentors have always urged her to stick with her mission no matter what, she said. Between their words of encouragement and her loving and supportive family, she’s maintained her drive to keep going.

“It has to be a mission of love and concern for your community. It will require commitment and perseverance. It is a lot of work, but what you believe in will inspire you,” she wrote.

In her words: “When you are given a God-inspired vision, know that God has inspired the vision in like-minded people.”

We’re always open to hearing about more inspiring people. If you’d like to suggest someone else who should be recognized, please fill out this form.

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