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Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 brings heightened attention to behind-the-scenes mental and emotional ailments that have historically plagued the African American community. While many have suffered in silence believing there was nowhere to turn or concealing emotional pain; for more than 50 years Regional Addiction Prevention, better known as RAP, Inc., has been working to support and attend to the residential treatment needs and mental health of citizens grappling with substance use disorders.
From the beginning, RAP’s co-founder, Ron Clark, understood there was no separation between mental, physical and emotional health, so RAP practiced and championed the necessity of treating the whole person—mind, body, and soul—in guiding individuals to embrace the journey of recovery.
Charles Stephenson, who has been a RAP, Inc. Board Member since the early days of the organization, believes the lessons of wholeness still are necessary. RAP stood in the gap for people feeling lost, disregarded, depressed, hopeless, searching for a way to cope with un-or-underemployment, or just finding a way to survive.
In their wholeness approach, RAP realized early the importance of helping individuals to discover who they are by creating an Afro-centric approach to treatment and to living. That meant, for example, assisting individuals in understanding their self-worth; teaching them to see themselves and their possibilities in the accomplishments of other African Americans and Africans; and building and celebrating life-affirming coping mechanisms without abusing substances.
“The effects of the issues and pain people are experiencing today are the same as they were when RAP was founded in 1970,” Stephenson explained. “RAP’s methods of getting people through the suffering have stood the test of time and RAP has endured because it served the people. Ron Clark recognized that people had to become whole in order to move forward.”
Washington Informer and United Black Fund (UBF) visionary Dr. Calvin Rolark acknowledged RAP and Clark’s groundbreaking work and included the organization among the first to receive financial help from UBF. Many years later, RAP, Inc. named the organization’s central facility, located in Northeast, D.C.’s Eckington neighborhood, in honor of Rolark for his caring support of District citizens who were doing the hard work of restoring themselves after battling substance addiction.
While Clark passed away in May 2019, RAP carries on his mission. The organization provides a broad range of services including: residential treatment, addiction and recovery, and mental health care for clients– all under the administrative leadership of Gaudenzia, a highly respected, non-profit treatment provider with other facilities in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
As conversations about mental health advance, Stephenson noted RAP’s methods remain beneficial for all people.
“RAP’s holistic approach to treatment—feeding and supporting the mental and emotional, physical, social and spiritual well-being of individuals—is medicine that we all need.”