Our History & Mission

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LIFELONG WELLNESS AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CARE

To enable individuals and families, regardless of age, to effectively and productively meet the many challenges within today's scope of "problems of living" by providing comprehensive community services in a caring environment.

The Emma L. Bowen Community Center consists of a staff of highly trained, culturally experienced psychologists, social workers, nurses, chemical dependency counselors, case managers, vocational rehabilitation counselors and early childhood teachers. Our incredible staff is fluent in Spanish and French.

The Bowen Center serves over 15,000 clients annual, offering services that include a therapeutic preschool for children with behavioral and developmental issues; programs for adults and seniors with mental health and substance abuse issues; chemical abuse outpatient programs and mental health-based services for children and adolescents; a twenty-bed residential chemical abuse recovery facility and a food pantry program that served over 60,000 meals in 2018.

The Emma L. Bowen Community Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community-based organization that is licensed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York State Office of Mental Health, New York State Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services, and New York State Department of Education.

EMMA L. BOWEN: MOTHER, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST AND FIGHTER FOR JUSTICE

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Emma L. Bowen was a mother, community activist and fighter for justice who was always concerned about the well-being of her neighbors as well as her community. As a young widowed with three daughters, Emma made the time to be actively involved in volunteering her services for the individuals residing in the Upper Manhattan and Harlem communities who were in need. In the 1960’s, she organized the Citizens Action for Neighborhood Organization (CAN-DO) and brought together tenants, landlords and City housing officials to seek ways to improve living conditions.

Emma also supported and partnered with elected officials who she felt would make positive contributions to the cause of equality for minorities. In conjunction with her good friend, New York State Senator Jacob Javits, Emma worked to bring an end to the unwritten law of the U.S. Senate that denied Black youth the right to become pages, and on April 18, 1965, the first African American page began work at the U.S. Senate.

Not too long after, New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay would appointed Emma to the position of Executive Secretary of the NYC Mental Health, Retardation and Alcoholism Service, a position she would hold until her retirement in 1985.

Bowen Center founder Emma L. BowenWhen Emma discovered that the City of New York was looking to open mental health facilities without input from the community, she teamed with the late Willian F. Hatcher and assembled members of the community, to establish the non-profit organization that would be the catalyst for the Upper Manhattan Mental Health Center, Inc.

Emma was aware of the influence that images portrayed in mass media can have on a community and individual. In 1971, she helped to form Black Citizens for a Fair Media (BCFM).  Soon after, BCFM approached broadcast executives at the New York City flagship stations of the major television networks to establish positive agreements to improve programming, develop training programs as well as employment opportunities for people of color.

The Foundation for Minority Interest in Media, founded in 1989, is an outgrowth of BCFM. The Foundation provides opportunities for minority youth to learn, be mentored and develop into highly qualified media professionals. The Foundation is supported by many of the same stations Emma Bowen approached years ago as well as many new networks, cable companies, and other media related companies. Upon her death in 1996, the foundation became the first of two organizations to bear Emma’s name, when it became – The Emma L. Bowen Foundation.

The second organization opened its doors in 1986 as the Upper Manhattan Mental Health Center. Renamed the Emma L. Bowen Community Service Center, after Emma’s passing, the Center is one of Harlem’s leading community-based organizations dedicated to providing supportive behavioral health services.

Emma was a media spokesperson for many causes, testified at the FCC on minorities and the media, and received numerous many awards for her significant contributions to the community she loved. One of her greatest achievements was receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University, in front of her grandchildren.

Emma Bowen was a true force for good. Her legacy lives on through thousands of individuals who have been enriched by the programs she helped to establish.