De’netta Benjamin-Miller, executive director of Sojourner House, is passionate about empowering communities to achieve mental wellness and heal from trauma.
Sojourner House provides addiction recovery services to mothers and their children.
Benjamin-Miller has 18 years of experience as a behavioral health therapist, and has previously worked for Familylinks, Hill House Association and Bethlehem Haven.
What upcoming events are you excited to attend?
I am a family person; I am excited to attend my 5-year-old nephew Noah’s birthday party. He brings so much energy, laughter and excitement to my family. Also, I am going dancing. I was a dancer for 20 years. Dancing is my happy place.
What is the best part of your job?
Creating and developing programs that help others have access to health/behavioral health wellness, helping others heal from trauma and educating the community with the goal of eliminating stigmas about behavioral health disorders (mental health and substance use).
What is your big idea for Pittsburgh?
To have more discussion about equity — that will lead to policy changes, and for Pittsburgh to be the example for other cities for equitable healthcare, housing and employment. We should promote an ideology of inclusion that involves input from all citizens, especially members of our community impacted by gentrification, instead of gentrifying those citizens who kept the economy going in certain communities during difficult times. We should make sure they are included in planning processes, and have the ability to afford rent when there is new development. To have access to mobile mental health traveling care vans that offer free screenings and referrals for care. The goal is to bring the treatment to the community, versus having consumers traveling to agencies for care.
Podcast you’re addicted to?
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s Therapy for Black Girls. The podcast encourages listeners to seek mental health care and provides education on disorders and different treatment models. I also love Dave Ramsey; he is so direct about money and finances.
What’s been bugging you lately?
Behavioral health parity: to ensure that all people have access to behavioral health care and not be refused by the insurance company if they need a higher level of care or longer treatment. In some cases, a person may have active suicidal ideations and will go the ER to be evaluated and denied admission into inpatient care. They are often referred to an outpatient setting because of their insurance. The increase of suicide rates for youth has doubled and if we can work with insurance companies to permit emergency treatment for youth that present suicidal thoughts or severe depression, we can change this unfortunate trend.
I hope with education, the community and insurance companies will understand that behavioral health disorders deserve the same treatment as physical health illnesses, like heart disease.
Who should be the unofficial Mayor of Pittsburgh?
Janis Burley Wilson, President and CEO of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. She brings people together from diverse backgrounds through music and the arts.
What book would you highly recommend?
“Atomic Habits” by James Clear. We are our habits; we have the ability to change habits/behaviors that never serve our purpose.
What’s one thing you would love to change about Pittsburgh?
The negative ideas about Homewood, Wilkinsburg and the Hill District. My husband and I live in Homewood. We could have chosen to live in another community, but we are committed to Homewood and Lincoln-Lemington.
What song in your playlist is on endless repeat?
Marvin Gaye’s “Come Get To This.” I love to fast dance to this song and it takes me to my happy place.
Favorite Pittsburgh brewery?
I am more of a wine drinker — Pittsburgh Winery in the Strip.
Which Pittsburgh food truck do you want parked outside your house?
Thai Gourmet Food Truck.
Fill in the blank: In Pittsburgh, I can’t live without my:
Community; I love the people.
What is the one thing that would surprise Pittsburghers most about you?
I am really an introvert! That is a surprise to a lot of my friends and coworkers because I am a therapist. I am very social and friendly, but I often like spending time with myself. Like the Beyoncé song, “Me, Myself and I!”