Small Business Spotlight – Jharman Lightner – President – Harvest Mental Health Services
Due to the rapid increase in levels of education, increase of doing business in professional services, and shear necessity; Black-owned businesses have grown tremendously, and Black women-owned businesses have surged even more and are considered change agents in the US economy. Between 2007 and 2012, according to the US Census Bureau, Black female entrepreneurship grew by 67 percent making them the fastest growing economic power in this country. This is remarkable considering the many challenges Black women face to secure financing such as loans, start-up money, government contracts and other resources. Historically, Black-owned businesses started out due to discrimination or lack of opportunities for promotions. Also, these businesses were created to fill the gap for goods and services needed in our communities.
The Beginning – To Meet A Need
Jharman Lightner is one of many Black female entrepreneurs who took a leap of faith despite the odds. She started Harvest Intervention Mental Health Services to meet the mental health needs of children and support for their families. Lightner, who has twelve years of experience in early childhood development and education. She was a special education teacher in the state of Florida, became a Developmental Therapist as a Sole Proprietor. For four years she worked as a student educator but realized that Black children were not getting the support services they needed. The system limited her to what she could do in her creativity to reach her students. This limitation inspired her decision to leave the education system as a teacher and seek Sole Proprietorship in Early Intervention to influence the critical years of development prior to entering school.
While venturing as a single entity in small business ownership, life shifted for Lightner with marriage and two children. Once this shift took place, she continued early intervention consultation while journeying as a stay at home mom. Around the time when her daughter was a year old, Lightner decided to go on her own as a company. She wanted to use her early intervention experience and credentials to reach more children, particularly African American children with mental and emotional needs.
When it comes to under-representation of services such as mental health in the Black community, the numbers are staggering among Black mental healthcare providers. According to Mental Health America, “Black and African American providers, who are known to give more appropriate and effective care to Black and African American help-seekers, make up a very small portion of the behavioral health provider workforce and [agencies].” Lightner’s agency was created to close the gap of mental health disparities of health care providers, and to help Black children who have been victims of, or who are at high risk of child abuse and/or neglect.
Every Business Needs Some Professional Help
Sometimes to grow a business the sustainable way, you may need some professional help. Jharman realized that challenge about four years ago and reached out to the Jacksonville Urban League’s Entrepreneurial Program. There she was introduced to W. Larry Williams, one of the Urban League’s Small Business Consultants/Mentors.
“The Jacksonville Urban League’s Entrepreneurship Program introduced me to an amazing business mentor and coach, Larry Williams, who has been vital in the growth and sustainability of Harvest Intervention Services,” stated Lightner. “Through the program, Larry provided guidance on one of the most important aspects of a business which is the administration and operations side of it. On top of that, he has taught me the importance of patience, collaborations, and stick-to-it-ness. He has shown me how building positive relationships and understanding people help a business thrive,” Lightner continued. “There have been many times where I have been discouraged and wanted to just give up on the pursuit of a sustainable, wealthy, African American, woman owned business. It is harder than I imagined but the rewards and growth have been phenomenal. I am so thankful for Jacksonville Urban League’s Entrepreneurship program and Larry Williams of The Anchor Group for their dedicated support in assisting an African American owned, woman owned business. We need more access to Entrepreneurship programs like this and certainly more authentic mentors who are sincere in their efforts to help,” Lightner concluded.
Who Is She?
Jharman Lightner is one of many Black female entrepreneurs who took a leap of faith despite the odds. Lightner started Harvest Intervention Mental Health Services in Jacksonville, Florida to meet the mental health needs of children and support for their families. As founder and President, Lightner works with children with developmental disabilities, behavioral challenges, and mental health diagnoses. Married with two children, Lightner specializes in early intervention to provide awareness and training to parents of infants, toddlers, and young children to impact their child’s mental health development. During her transition into early intervention, Lightner received Applied Behavior Analysis training and Infant Mental Health training. She served as a Florida Educator, certified in special education, and is certified as an Infant Toddler Specialist (ITDS). She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Fisk University and master’s degree in Psychology with a School Psychology concentration from Tennessee State University.
Jharman’s mission is to bring the importance of a positive parent/child relationship during the critical years of birth to 3 years to homes allowing parents to become their child’s greatest supporter and advocate for healthy child development.
Equity in the Mental Health Care Provider Space
One of the challenges many women minority-owned businesses face, especially among mental health agencies, is receiving and accessing equitable state social services government contracts. Since founding the agency, Lightner professes that when the agency received a contract through Florida’s Early Intervention System Program (Early Step) they struggled for many years to get clients referred to them. She was told by the state “that it is a process in the system where they put all of the kids on an email blast and everybody has an equal opportunity to service these kids [the support they need].” But in reality, that was not the case. There was a lack of access to these opportunities to service these children. As time went on state service coordinators would tell her that these children were already assigned to certain agencies before they were added to the email blast. It was first come first serve of what was left that the bigger agencies did not take.
So, how do you compete fairly when the system is stacked up against you? You are already blocked out and you only receive remnants or small amounts of what is left over. Lightner would love a government contract opportunity but it seems there is a block in the system or there is a lack of opportunities to receive them. Jharman asserts that when government contracts are given to minority-owned businesses, many times they are devalued because they are left with miniscule of what majority-owned businesses receives in referrals. Further, Lightner encountered not hearing back about opportunities after submitting paperwork. MOUs were signed and other legal documents submitted with the hope to expand the business so that it can serve the community. However, she did not receive anything resulting in the lack of clientele and no income. At this time, Florida has not awarded any Black agencies’ contracts for psychological testing.
Moving Forward – You Have to Keep Pushing
Jharman is passionate and dedicated to training families and their children in their homes, schools, communities and virtually, to help children meet milestones in their development. This is not going to stop Lightner. She is going to keep pushing. She wants to bring on families who need it the most, low-income families.
Other Services That Are Offered
Harvest Intervention also offers creative and innovative ways to respond to anxieties, fears and stress among adults that can lead to depression and erratic behavior, especially during this pandemic and social unrest.
As schools are preparing for re-openings, the agency offers teachers, staff and families social and emotional support and work life balance tools during this traumatic time. They are able to address the concern of the risk of re-opening during a surge of the pandemic.
Tele-health Services are currently available to include, mental health counseling, childhood behavior therapy, portions of psychological testing, and virtual academic and learning support.
For fast, friendly and secure mental health services, contact Jharman and The Harvest Team at (904) 595-6516 or www.harvestinterventions.com.
MEDIA INQUIRIES: For more information contact, W. Larry Williams, The ANCHOR PR TEAM at (206) 941-0244.
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