The case of Deasia Bartee continues to expose the inadequate services and support in residential areas of color.
As I followed the news report of the Assistant District Attorney describing Ms. Bartee as nothing less than a monster for taking the life of her infant girl. I couldn’t help but observe the demeanor of Ms. Bartee as strange.
Ms. Bartee, a Mount Vernon mother, who was sentenced to 19 years in state prison for killing her toddler-aged daughter last August.
I am no physician, but I have been trained to deal with mentally ill people. Even though I am employed as a Correctional Officer at the Westchester County Jail, I have never had any interactions with Ms. Bartee. When watching the different videos of her sentencing, you couldn’t help but think that all this young lady needed some help, some guidance, and counseling.
As law enforcement, there is no mystery that there is a lack of assistance with the mentally ill population. When it comes to the black community, the effect of the deficiency of services is devastating.
It is a Historical fact that black communities of color face challenges in accessing mental health services or just general support of families in need.
When blacks live in poverty they are three times more likely to report severe psychological distress than those living above poverty. When you have a city like Mt. Vernon that houses 30 percent of all families receiving social services in Westchester County, without the proper resources, you are creating conditions that many families will never be able to come out of. According to the US HHS Office of Minority Health, these types of living conditions can cause post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
Many black communities like Mt. Vernon there is a deep distrust of authorities, loss of hope and leadership is seen not having the best interests of those in need. The case of Ms. Bartee is no different.
In a statement to the Journal News, Westchester District Attorney, Karen Herbert stated that Bartee had an “extensive” history with Child Protective Services.
As I read the many Facebook posts about the alleged living conditions of the family and Ms. Bartee. I can not help but wonder if people of Mt. Vernon knew something was wrong then why didn’t any CPS worker see anything incorrect and make corrective measures to change this young ladies conditions?
As always, conscious or unconscious prejudice and lack of cultural competence result in poorer quality care and supervision in the black community.
Given the bias, negative impact and case overload of case workers. It is easy to understand why cases like Ms. Bartee and rendering the proper care she and her child can conduct to a tragic incident just like this. This is not new in the Black community and it still should be unacceptable in the Black community.
Mt. Vernon has been a city that has been devastated from the continuous drain of services from county and state. It is a historical fact, Mt. Vernon has been used as the scapegoat for budget cuts. While other city services have increased by the county, Mt. Vernon’s gets cut.
The collateral damage is children like baby girl Samia Yusuf and young women like Ms. Bartee, that needed assistance, most likely wanted support but are victims as well of a system that the ending effect is the continuous destruction of black families while black leadership stands by and as usual; powerless to change the condition of their people.