DBHIDS Offers Help to Our Community on National Depression Screening Day

By David T. Jones

According to Mental Health America, one of the nation’s leading community-based nonprofits dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, one in five adults have a mental health condition — that’s more than 40 million Americans, or the populations of New York and Florida combined.

One of the most prevalent mental health conditions is depression, a disease of the mind that, if untreated, can have severe or even fatal effects on those who live with it, the people who know and love them, and even innocent strangers. That’s why we were pleased to once again participate in the 2017 National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) on Thursday, October 5. Held each October during Mental Illness Awareness Week, NDSD features of variety of events and awareness activities such as free depression screening. Throughout the day, DBHIDS staff and our partners were stationed in nearly 20 sites across the city offering people an opportunity to get a “check-up from the neck up” because we wholeheartedly believe that a person’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. In all, more than 100 people received a free screening through our NDSD event, getting access to services and information to help assess the state of their mental health.

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Philadelphians Share Their Stories About How the ACA Has Helped Them

By Josh Kruger
Department of Public HealthOffice of the Mayor
A father sits in a hospital waiting room with his young son resting on his lap.

More than 200,000 Philadelphians benefit from the Affordable Care Act — more than 160,000 through the Medicaid expansion and about 60,000 through the ACA’s marketplace.

If the ACA is repealed, these people could all lose their health insurance and have no way to pay for medical care.

They’re not the only ones who’ll be affected, either. If Congress repeals the ACA, most adults and children in Philadelphia who have private healthcare coverage will lose protections the ACA provides. Protection like no-cost preventive care, coverage of preexisting conditions, and equal coverage of behavioral health issues like addiction.

The stakes are high for all of us.

We asked Philadelphians to share their stories. Here’s what a few of you had to say. Read more

Collaboration Can Lead to Change

By David T. Jones

What’s happening along Gurney Street is something to be celebrated.

In just over two weeks since the clean-up project began along a stretch of land owned by Conrail in the Kensington-Fairhill community, more than 250 tons of waste and debris have been removed and fencing is going up to prevent people from becoming injured on or near the railroad tracks.  In addition, the fencing serves as a barrier to prevent gathering in the area where folks had engaged in dangerous and unhealthy behavior.  In this instance the “C “word, collaboration between City agencies and private partners, has made the difference — the once blighted landscape is no more.

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Homeless Safety a Heightened Issue During Summer Months

By David T. Jones
Acting Commissioner,

Summer is here –- at last -– and for many people, thoughts turn to fun family getaways, sitting out by the pool or on the beach and sweet treats like ice cream or water ice to cool us down. But for people who are living on the street, these options of summer escapes aren’t so readily accessible.

Hundreds of people experience periods of street homelessness in Philadelphia, using street corners, transit hubs and parks as shelter. Heavily-traveled areas, particularly in and around Center City, reveal the faces of this sad reality. And while being homeless can be devastating enough for an individual, the problem is only compounded for those who are also living with an untreated mental illness, addiction, or both.

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Inform, Encourage, Provide: Steps We Can Take to Help Our Youth

By Lawrence A. Real, MD
Chief Medical Officer,

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and as we celebrate recovery, we strive to increase awareness and work to end stigma around mental health. Through the offering of comprehensive services, resources, and access to behavioral healthcare, we have a strong commitment to helping youth, adults, and families in greatest need, especially as the rates of reported mental health challenges continue to rise, especially among our youth.

Last week was National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and now, more than ever, it’s critical that we all take some time to pay attention to the emotional health and well-being of our children.

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Peer to Peer: Meeting Those in Need Where They Are

Ramon Cruz

After more than three decades of substance use, Ramon Cruz decided to seek recovery and now is working with DBHIDS’ Certified Peer Specialist program, helping others access support for recovery.

By Monica Lewis-Wilborn

Ramon Cruz was tired.

He was tired of being in and out of trouble with the law. He was tired of disappointing his family. He was tired of letting his life spin out of control.

It was in that time of despair, when he was at his weakest point, that Ramon found the strength to take charge of his life and find a way to recovery after more than 30 years of substance use and numerous incarcerations. That was two years ago and today, Ramon, 53, is not just off of drugs, but he’s a part of our Certified Peer Specialist program with Community Behavioral Health (CBH), the managed care arm of the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) that serves as a voice for and resource to those impacted by behavioral health issues. Each day, Ramon uses his story to help others who find themselves on the same path to nowhere he traveled for so long.

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Revolutionizing Population Health Management With Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

September 2015 — Free Executive Web Briefing Sponsored By Beating the Blues US

Presented By: Samantha Matlin, Director of Evaluation and Community Impact, Scattergood Foundation and former Special Advisor to the Commissioner and Senior Director for Health Promotion, Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) & Dana Careless, Manager for Health Promotion, Philadelphia DBHIDS

As the health and human services industry shifts to a population health approach, organizations are looking for new, innovative ways to provide care and ease the transition. Technologies and programs such as online cognitive behavioral therapy have become increasingly popular for organizations looking for innovative ways to provide treatment to the populations that they serve. Whether it’s new tools or innovative uses for technologies in the current market, digital technologies are changing the way organizations provide care and manage the shift to population health.

Hear Samantha Matlin, Ph.D., former Special Advisor to the Commissioner and Senior Director for Health Promotion, and Dana Careless, Manager for Health Promotion at the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), discuss how the City of Philadelphia is using digital technologies like Beating the Blues US, an online cognitive behavioral therapy program, to support their shift to a population health management approach. During this exclusive 90-minute session, Dr. Matlin and Ms. Careless shared examples of technologies currently being used and the innovative ways these tools are being offered to individuals needing care.

This highly anticipated case study presentation showcased:

  • the conceptual model of how Philadelphia DBHIDS has been moving to a population health management approach;
  • real world examples of key technologies being offered to individuals needing care and the innovative ways these technologies are being used;
  • an exclusive look at how Philadelphia DBHIDS has been using online cognitive behavioral therapy and the lessons learned while implementing the use of this technology.

Click the links below to view the briefing slides as well as the audio.

Download Slides (PDF)
Webinar Recording Video (MP4)

Newly Released Person First Guidelines

Just-Released: Person First Guidelines

Words are among the most powerful tools for communication that human beings have at their disposal. They can be used to heal, affirm motivate, inform, build capacity and consensus, inspire, praise, and educate. Unwittingly, and often with no intent at malice, they can be used to minimize, marginalize, pathologize, stigmatize and oppress.

The fields of alcohol and other drug treatment and mental health services collectively referred to as behavioral health have long used words to diagnose and label individuals and families by their (respective) challenges. This is taught in colleges and universities as the way in which we identify people and the challenges for which they present with care. However, this labeling has a tendency to elicit pity or sympathy, create oppressive situations, cast people and families in a negative light and/or in “victim” roles and perpetuate negative stereotypes.

Labeling people and families by their challenges (e.g. homeless, alcoholic, addict, schizophrenic, diabetic etc.) also tends to dehumanize, disenfranchise and reduce the person or family to being that challenge, instead of someone living with, in recovery from or experiencing symptoms of it.

The field of behavioral health services is historically paternalistic in its approach to working with people and families. Social healing words (strengths-based language) help the field eliminate that paternalism and move away from doing things to and for people and families to doing things with them.

Learning a new language, especially for adults, is often challenging. Many people in the behavioral health field were trained to label the people and families with whom they work. Insurance companies pay for diagnoses rather than, wellness and healing. Thankfully, large systems employing vast numbers of people have begun to reevaluate such ideologies as illness in the workforce costs companies billions of dollars each year in lost productivity. The art is in recognizing the use of words that are grounded in the strengths and capacities of people and families. This recognition promotes whole health (physical, emotional,social spiritual), improved outcomes and healing.

The following work represents years of thinking affirmatively about people, families and communities and how best to support their journeys to wellness. Some believe that moving away from deficit language devalues their work and diminishes their roles as experts who have spent years getting their educations and working in their fields. Conversely others feel relief that they do not always need to be the expert. One person working in a community-based program in DC related that he found his work less taxing because he was stepping out of the way to promote people deciding their own courses of care. We believe there is little cost associated with changing language rather the benefits are immeasurable in terms of better outcomes and more collaborative relationships with people receiving services, their families and their communities.

Click HERE to access the full guidelines or see below.

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Just-Released: Final Evaluation of the Porch Light Study

The Yale School of Medicine spent four years evaluating our Porch Light program – a collaborative endeavor of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and DBHIDS that aims to catalyze positive changes in the community, improve the physical environment, create opportunities for social connectedness, develop skills to enhance resilience and recovery, promote community and social inclusion, shed light on challenges faced by those with behavioral health issues, reduce stigma, and encourage empathy. More information about the Porch Light Project can be found HERE.

Now they are ready to share the evaluation results.

The evaluation was guided by a theory of change that specifies how certain neighborhood characteristics, collective efficacy among residents and aesthetic qualities of the neighborhood, can reduce established health risks associated with neighborhood decay and disorder. Public murals were expected to enhance these neighborhood characteristics in the short-term so as to promote long-term community health. The Porch Light theory of change also specifies how creation of a public mural by individuals with mental health or substance abuse challenges can reduce behavioral health stigma and enhance individual recovery and resilience. In collaboration with Porch Light stakeholders, the research team developed a logic model based on this underlying theory of change to guide the evaluation and examine community and individual-level outcomes.

The Porch Light Evaluation was part of a larger initiative, the Philadelphia Community Health Project (PCHP), conducted in collaboration with DBHIDS. The purpose of pchp was twofold: to identify appropriate comparison neighborhoods and participants from behavioral health agencies in Philadelphia for the Porch Light Evaluation, and to provide additional data to DBHIDS on the well-being, service use, and neighborhood conditions experienced by persons receiving behavioral health services. Porch Light and PCHP neighborhoods and agencies were matched on key characteristics, including conditions of neighborhood decay and disorder as well as demographic and neighborhood risk indicators, so as to enhance the scientific rigor of the evaluation.


After almost two years, residents living within one mile of more than one newly installed mural reported:

  • A sustained relative increase in collective efficacy, including social cohesion and trust among neighbors as well as informal neighborhood social control.
  • A modest but sustained relative increase in perceptions of neighborhood aesthetic quality, including the quality of the walking environment and perceived neighborhood safety.
  • A promising and sustained relative decrease (again at a statistical trend) in stigma toward individuals with mental health or substance abuse challenges.

Full findings from the study that highlight the effectiveness of Porch Light program murals are available HERE.

This evaluation was made possible by funding from: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Independence Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, The Patricia Kind Family Foundation, Hummingbird Foundation, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

For media inquiries, contact: Kimberly.Rymsha@phila.gov

MEDIA ADVISORY: “Fables of Fortune” Mural Dedication (7/1)

Philadelphia’s Strength-based and Community-oriented Mural about Gambling

Community-wide effort to strengthen awareness of “problem gambling” – especially amongst Philadelphia’s Asian immigrant communities

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Located in the heart of South Philadelphia’s Asian-American community – and only blocks away from Philadelphia’s casinos – the new mural, Fables of Fortune, is about problem gambling. Research suggests that the Asian American community is at higher risk for problem gambling than other communities. Fables of Fortune, the newest addition in the Porch Light series, a partnership between the Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual disAbility Services and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, will greet riders of a popular casino-bound trolley service with messages of wellness, hope and recovery.  In addition, the mural illustrates stories of real people and the cultural aspects of luck and gambling; the challenges problem gamblers face; and the arrival of local casinos and gambling practices that target immigrant communities over the past decade. Created by Mural Arts artist, Eric Okdeh, the visual message behind the mural shows a path of recognition of gambling addiction, and the decision to overcome problem gambling for individuals and their families.

Join us on Wednesday, July 1 for the official unveiling. Greater details are below.



  • Jane Golden, Executive Director, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
  • Dr. Marquita Williams, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services
  • Dr. Catherine Williams, Single County Authority Administrator, Director of Program Planning & Operations, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services
  • Thoai Nguyen, CEO, SEAMAAC
  • Eric Okdeh, Artist, City of Philadelphia, Mural Arts Program

2300 South 7th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Remarks will take place on sidewalk North of the 2300 S 7th building

David Kim (215-685-5454 or David.Kim@phila.gov)
Kimberly Rymsha (215-685-5475 or kimberly.rymsha@phila.gov)

If you’re interested in speaking with someone on or prior to the event date and/or you planning to join us at the event, please let us know.

Funders and partners for this event include the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services/The Office of Addiction Services, SEAMAAC, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and the Patricia Kind Family Foundation.