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Gordon-Young says her behavioral health expertise makes her a needed voice on the Peoria City Council

Peoria City Council candidate Dr. Bernice Gordon-Young
Tim Shelley
Peoria City Council candidate Dr. Bernice Gordon-Young

Dr. Bernice Gordon-Young says her experience working in behavioral health make her voice a unique one that's needed on the Peoria City Council now more than ever.

"We're really at a mental health crisis state, and being able to have a say, in terms of educating the public, educating those around the horseshoe, my colleagues, and not just that, but also avenues for unique perspectives, avenues for something different," she said.

Gordon-Young has worked in the behavioral health field for the past 28 years. She also previously worked as a 911 dispatcher for 18 years, and in the airline industry.

"The experience that I have, not just from an educational perspective, or an experiential perspective. But I am someone who has been in the trenches. I know Peoria. I know these families," she said. "I have lived in every district in the city of Peoria, primarily growing up on the south side of Peoria, and I've lived in District Three for the last 22 years."

Gordon-Young said she would bring the perspectives of people suffering from mental health challenges to the discussion.

She said her work with people detained in the Peoria County Jail gives her a different perspective on public safety.

"It really is about understanding how did they get there, you know, and once we can get to the root cause, then we're more likely to curtail some of those decisions that people make," she said.

She said she's also hopeful the new pilot behavioral health co-responder program with the Peoria Police Department will not only help first responders, but the next generation of counselors, too.

"I think that it gives students who are in the counseling programs and opportunity to try something new. But most importantly, I think it serves as a viable option to reducing crime and also increasing and helping those with mental health challenges," she said.

As a behavioral health specialist working with Peoria Public Schools, Gordon-Young said she's also supportive of UnityPoint Health's efforts to create more capacity for youth behavioral health treatment in Peoria through their Young Minds Project.

Gordon-Young said Peoria needs to be safe and inclusive to thrive and grow.

"I want to capitalize on the humans that we the human capital that we have here. We have amazing people here," she said. "And if we utilize and, and empower our residents here, then we're more likely to keep them here."

For her, growing Peoria also means addressing blight.

"If we look at some of the most disenfranchised, impoverished areas, and start to invest in those areas by tearing down those homes that are just eyesores, tearing down the negativity. The eyesores create this lower morale," she said.

She said even an empty lot seeded with green grass can be an improvement with the proper maintenance, citing a lot near her mother's home she purchased to keep it from accumulating garbage.

Gordon-Young said she's confident she can work with the other members of the city council.

"I talk to people for a living," she said. "I am used to engaging people that I don't know. But I'm also very passionate and determined to continue to affect change. I have no doubt whatsoever that I cannot work with others," she said.

The election is April 4.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.