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DMH Wins One Million in Grants for 9-11 -Related Outreach and Employment Initiatives

Friday, May 10, 2002

(Washington, DC) The DC Department of Mental Health was awarded more than $1 million in grants this week to fund two major projects, announced DMH Director Martha B. Knisley. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the anthrax deaths, concern persists among District residents about the future and unpredictable events. The department will continue its outreach, education, and crisis counseling program, funded by a $908,000, five-month extension of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant.

DMH also received a three-year, $180,000 grant from the Johnson and Johnson Foundation to broaden opportunities for supported competitive employment for people with a mental illness.

"Both grants allow us to extend our services on two different levels," said Director Knisley. "We received our first FEMA grant in March and created Project DC, which deploys nine teams of outreach workers citywide to give adults and children the opportunity to discuss how the terrorist acts affected them. With the additional funds, we can reach even more people and we are planning events to mark the anniversaries of September 11 and the October deaths of two Postal Service workers."

Project DC staff has worked intensively in the Brentwood neighborhood, the site of the Postal Service headquarters where two employees contracted and died from anthrax. Anger, fear, and pain dominated residents' feelings and those feelings continue as the federal government debates options to clean up the facility. Another neighborhood where Project DC has had a positive impact is Adams Morgan, home to many people who previously were traumatized by war and other cruelties in their Central American homelands. September 11 retraumatized these residents, who became very concerned about their immigration status and unemployment (many were employed in the tourism industry that has just begun a resurgence). Citywide, the Project DC team is working directly with seniors and youth, in partnership with the Office on Aging and the DC Department of Parks and Recreation.

The grant to the employment program is one of seven issued nationwide by the Johnson and Johnson Foundation. "This award takes us to the next level, which is reform of our employment services from a sheltered work model to one of supported competitive employment," said Director Knisley. "Our lives generally are defined by what we do to earn a living and that is true for everyone, including people with a mental illness. We know that recovery from mental illness is influenced by many factors, including how a person perceives work and his or her sense of being a productive member of society. Through this program, participants will be paid a competitive wage for their work."

Director Knisley also explained how the program is consistent with the department's overall mandate to create and operate the District's mental health system. "We are in the final stage of receivership, well on our way to creating the consumer-, recovery- and choice-driven mental health system envisioned for District residents. By undertaking the fundamental issue of being productively employed, we are addressing yet another dimension of recovery from mental illness."

In addition to the training and resources being made available through the grant, a unique social network mapping project, to be conducted by Howard University, also is funded through the grant. This project will produce valuable data to be used to structure the supported competitive employment program.

The supported competitive employment program is a shared initiative with the DC Department of Human Services. In October 2001, DMH and DHS conducted a two-day conference on best practices. Since then, staff were trained in best practices, in turn, they will train others. The grant provides access to resources and training from the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, including use of a toolkit developed for use by mental health professionals, consumers of mental health services, and their families.