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U.S. Representative Katie Porter. Official photo

[The Episcopal News] A Mental Health Justice Town Hall – set to underscore professional best practices for dealing with mental health crises – will be hosted via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 19, by the Bishop’s Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Care of the Diocese of Los Angeles. All are invited to attend. Advance registration is required: click here.

The town hall will be opened by Bishop John Harvey Taylor, who will introduce a pre-recorded video presentation by U.S. Congresswoman Katie Porter, who represents the 45th congressional district in Orange County. An Episcopalian, Porter has long advocated for deploying mental health professionals to respond when people living with psychological issues need assistance or restraint.

Porter’s remarks will be followed by a live discussion with panelists Taun Hill, founder of the Miles Hall Foundation in memory of her late son who during a mental health crisis was fatally shot by police; Gigi Crowder, executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, (NAMI), Contra Costa County; and Pete Cohen, retired sergeant, San Diego Police Department.

The panel discussion will be moderated by the Rev. Samuel Pillsbury, a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles who currently serves as a volunteer prison chaplain at Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles. A newspaper reporter before attending law school, Pillsbury previously worked as an assistant United States attorney, criminal division, in Los Angeles and taught criminal law at Loyola Law School.

“The purpose of the Town Hall,” notes Sister Patricia Sarah Terry, chair of the Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Care, “is to help the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles better understand why mental health justice is of concern to all communities of faith. We would like for the people of our diocese to become more aware of the extensiveness of the problems caused when police use tactics learned in standard police training when dealing with persons exhibiting mental health issues. Panelists will focus their remarks on these goals.”

Formed by Bishop Taylor in 2021 after the murder of George Floyd, the commission’s mission is “to bring the church’s attention to the places in our legal system and institutions, particularly those involving issues of race and mental health, which are not in alignment with the Gospel message and to support activities that will bring the Gospel message to bear upon them.”

More about the commission is online here. Inquiries may be emailed to bishopsoffice@ladiocese.org.