Busta’s Person of the Week: ‘I’ve always had the heart to help the underserved populations.’

Busta’s Person of the Week: ‘I’ve always had the heart to help the underserved populations.’
September 29
10:28 2020

By Busta Brown

Bottom Up Outreach Center has several programs that it provides to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and youth populations. They provide services under the N.C. Innovations waiver that assists individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is a Medicaid waiver program, which offers an array of services and support options, designed to assist individuals of all ages to remain in their community and to live as independently as possible. 

Joseph Whaley added, “We also have several private pay programs, addressing many of the underserved populations. There are many challenges that our community faces, especially those living in poverty and dealing with social and racial injustices. Many of these individuals are dealing with disabilities, like autism, and other mental illnesses which could be onset due to environments such as violence, domestic abuse, drugs, etc.”

Bottom Up Outreach Center created the Man Academy to address and assist this population. There are many times that individuals are dealing with these mental illnesses of PTSD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, and more, and have no idea they are suffering from it in these environments. This could lead to increased gang activity or behavioral problems with aggression, hopelessness, lack of social interaction, and other problems. This population is also at an increased risk of police and court system involvement, in which many times situations are escalated due to each side of the police versus the individual not knowing how to interact and deal with each other.  “The Man Academy wants to collaborate with the city and other private sectors to help bring together police and judges to sit down and have conversations and training on how to deal with the mental illness and disabled population,” said Joseph Whaley, CEO and president of Bottom Up Outreach Center.  

I asked Whaley to share information about the other amazing programs at Bottom Up Outreach Center. “Fit To Shine is a fitness program catered to individuals with and without disabilities. We have individualized and specially modified training and movement programs for different fitness levels of the individuals in the program. We have certified personal trainers and nutritionists leading the workouts specific to the individual. And our Shine Up program addresses our homeless population with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental illnesses. Many were forced into homelessness by aging out of clinical programs and homes, and being discharged from hospitals with no place to go.”  

Millions of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year and many of them who were shot and killed by police were Black men and boys. With that said, this topic should no longer continue to be taboo in the Black community, nor should we be ashamed of it. I get depressed and see a therapist once a month. In my childhood community, I’ve witnessed plenty of men physically abusing women as if they were fighting men. I’ve also witnessed shootings and an abundance of drug use, and it’s caused me to have serious anxiety and depression. Thank God I wasn’t ashamed to seek therapy; because of that I’m healed. And I’m able to be the father I never had to my sons, and to be a teacher and youth mentor. So, I personally love what Joseph Whaley is doing with his organization. 

According to Joseph Whaley, so many of our youth that are in gangs are dealing with mental illness as well. “Mental illness is an epidemic, man, and it’s not getting any of the energy and resources that’s needed. It’s a very overlooked population. They’re at the top of the homeless list. One in four individuals that are African American has a disability, and one in nine has a mental illness. Those are huge numbers! I started Bottom Up Outreach Center because I noticed Black youth with mental illness wasn’t getting fair and equal treatment or resources as other youth. I’m hoping to connect and sit at the table with the powers that be and show them that our programs are working, and then work together to help our communities,” said Joseph. 

He credits his wife Shanquilla for her unwavering support, while also holding things down at home with their three children. “I couldn’t have done any of this without her. My wife and kids are my everything.” 

My Person of the Week is the phenomenal Joseph Whaley. If you or someone you know that can benefit from Bottom Up Outreach Center programs, send them an email at or call 336-529-6070.

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