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Harford Health Department healing session hopes to build trust with Black, brown communities in wake of shooting death

The Harford County Health Department will hold a healing session Friday to address issues of trauma and health disparities in the county’s Black and brown communities after a 20-year-old Black man was shot and killed in June.

Hosted at the Grove on Willoughby Beach Road at 6:30 p.m., this will be the second health department event in Edgewood.

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Administrative specialist with the health department Felicia Grant-Hopkins said the goal is to build trust with the Edgewood community and find how to better serve these communities through a sustained effort. When the health department first reached out to the community in June, it found that many did not know about available county programs and services, she said.

This is the second event in the series, which will happen monthly, Grant-Hopkins said. The first event in the course was a June listening session for the health department to hear about the community’s struggles. She said many in Edgewood were worried about food availability, transportation, issues with police and lack of medical insurance.

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While a constellation of those issues are the concern of the health department, the goal of the event is to make Edgewood residents aware of what services are available to them and connect them with organizations that can help.

“We are not the end all be all, but we want to be able to connect our community with resources that already exist out here in Harford County,” Grant-Hopkins said.

The event is open to anyone who wishes to attend, and pamphlets on mental health services will be available there. A violence prevention specialist, M.O.M.S. of Murdered Sons and Daughters, and county officials will also be there, including the district’s councilman, Andre Johnson. Free produce and snowballs will be given out, too.

Friday’s event was planned because of the ripple effect 20-year-old Jarmel Stewart’s death had on his community.

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Stewart was found shot in the upper body on the 6200 block of Edgewood Road on June 9. The Harford County Sheriff’s Office said it did not appear to be a random crime, but could not elaborate further on the investigation. Investigators are still seeking information related to the shooting.

The shooting rattled many in the community, Grant-Hopkins said, who reached out to the health department, prompting the its response.

Of course, the struggle is getting the people who need the services offered into the room, Grant-Hopkins said. Building trust has been slow in Edgewood, but she hopes that interaction with community leaders, churches and elected officials will draw more in.

“That trust building process isn’t just a one and done,” she said. “We have got to keep showing up and showing we are a force for good.”

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