Marsha McWilson walks for family mental health

Mar. 30—Although she is best known as an international stage singer, Falls resident Marsha McWilson has done a lot of advocacy work in recent years. Primarily in the areas of gun violence prevention and mental health.

She was one of several representatives from Western New York to participate in Family Empowerment Day, which took place March 19 at the New York State Capital Building. York, in Albany. The advocacy event, hosted by Families Together New York State, urges state lawmakers to increase funding for mental health and community wellness efforts.

McWilson eventually connected with Sara Taylor, founder of BIPOC PEEEEEEK, a nonprofit helping minority children with mental illness. Taylor is working to increase the number of peer advocates for Black families.

“She answered a phone call and said, ‘You need to hear this lady,'” McWilson said. “And I want her to represent Western New York.”

The event attracted about 4,000 people from across the state, including about 300 from Western New York.

During her speaking time, McWilson spoke about her anti-gun advocacy, something she has been fighting for since her son Jaylan died from gun violence in January 2023. She notably sang a rendition of the song by Bill Wither’s 1972 “Lean on Me.” “

She was also able to meet with Sen. Sean Ryan’s staff, even though he was not in attendance.

Families Together is pushing for elements of the New York State budget to be dedicated to the well-being of youth and families, some of whom are facing budget cuts. Their 2024 policy agenda calls for a 3.2% cost of living adjustment and $500 million in flexible funding for the community behavioral health system, combating behavioral health discrimination by insurance companies and student loan forgiveness and scholarship programs for individuals pursuing careers in the field of child behavior. health, among other initiatives.

Gail Berkes, also from BIPOC PEEEEEEK, said this event was about making their voices heard and…

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