City Calls on Philadelphia to Take Online Pledge to “Check in” on those who Have the Holiday Blues

PHILADELPHIA – Starting today and throughout the holiday season, the city’s behavioral health department will be calling on Philadelphians to take a quick online pledge to “check in” on family and friends who are suffering from the holiday blues for reasons that range from losing a loved one to losing a job. Anyone can take the pledge, which encourages individuals to also be mindful of their own holiday wellness, at through January 1, 2018.


check in, holiday, mental health, mind your holidays, philadelphia, philly

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Becoming Conscious of Social Media’s Influence

Jaime Renman
2017 Mayor's Internship Program Intern at DBHIDS

When I was bored, I would click on Facebook. When I felt lonely, I would click on Instagram. When I was stuck even in the smallest time frames, I would go on social media scrolling through posts and news. When I realized I spent an average of three hours per day on my phone on social media, I knew something had to change. 

mayors internship program, philadelphia, social media

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The Road to Recovery, a Journey of Hope

Monica Lewis-Wilborn
Director of Communications

April 9, 1983.
This was the day Dickie Noles’ life changed. A Major League Baseball player with a nasty 95 mph fastball, Noles was a beast on the mound. But an addiction to drugs and alcohol was spiraling his life out of control as fast as his pitches. Multiple arrests for disorderly conduct were the norm for Noles, leading to far too many nights in jail and away from the baseball field.

And on that day – April 9, 1983 – Noles decided enough was enough. He hasn’t used drugs or had an alcoholic drink since then and life, Noles said, has never been better or more under control.

addiction, alcohol, baseball, dickie noles, drugs, hope

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How to Reach Every Child with ‘Unique’ Needs

Nneamaka Faith Mokwe
Mandela Washington Fellow

Akpan is a toddler from Nigeria. His parents adore their little champ, even though he’s unable to call them “mummy” or “daddy.” They know he will speak someday, but when? They watch him struggle daily to mutter a sweet word. He can’t run to give his parents a hug. When will their child speak and walk? Who will help and what can we do to help him? 

children, mandela washington fellow, nigeria, parents, philadelphia, supports

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International Visitors Returning to DBHIDS

Fran Silvestri
President and CEO of the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) and the International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL)

On Sept. 11- 12, 30 leaders from around the world will be visiting the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) to understand the developments in Philadelphia to build the mental health literacy and services.

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Beating the Preteen Blues with a Healthy Lifestyle

Allison Longo
M.Ed (c), Teacher

You may be aware that over 60 percent of women and girls in Third World and developing nations do not have access to feminine hygiene products, but did you know that it's also an issue here in the U.S.? Women and girls who live below the federal poverty line often cannot afford sanitary pads and tampons, sometimes causing them to stay home from school for a few days each month.

caring for the community, donors choose, hygiene, philadelphia, population health, school

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Collaboration Can Lead to Change

David T. Jones
Commissioner, DBHIDS

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.

cleanup, conrail, fairhill, gurney street, kensington-fairhill, mayor's task force to combat the opioid epidemic in philadelphia

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A Face of Domestic Violence

Samantha Chan
DBHIDS Clinical Intern for Health Promotion

Domestic Violence Awareness Month happens in October, but every day of the year several thousands of people are experiencing harm in their relationships.

Normally when people hear of domestic violence stories they think of a woman, scarred and bruised from being battered by a man. The image of a woman’s swollen face with a black eye and bloody lip is probably the first visual that forms in most minds when they imagine someone who has experienced domestic violence.

domestic violence, philadelphia, screening for mental health, shared safety

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Q&A Brings to Light Yoga’s Benefits for Overall Wellness

Julie Caramanico, MS, RYT, RCYT
Yoga Instructor

Yoga and its ties to mental health is a burgeoning area of discussion in the mental health field. The way I see it, yoga and psychology are like two roads that eventually converge into one: they both lead toward healthier, more joyful lives, but they originate from different places.  My name is Julie Caramanico.  I am a certified yoga instructor for adults and children with a master’s degree in Health Psychology.  I teach trauma-informed yoga to adults (vinyasa style) and teach kids yoga for children with special needs. For the purposes of this blog, I will be conducting an interview with Jessica Pavelka, a psychotherapist and yoga teacher.  We discussed how she uses yoga in therapy, and she offered her wisdom on utilizing yogic tools for two of the most common mental health concerns: depression and anxiety.

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Homeless Safety a Heightened Issue During Summer Months

David T. Jones
Acting Commissioner, DBHIDS

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.

heat, heat safety, homeless, homeless engagement, homeless outreach, homeless service

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To be an Inspiration to Others is my Calling

Jeffrey Shair

My belief in Jesus Christ has given me hope and opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. Growing up I was a nervous kid, fearful of having responsibilities that I was asked to perform, even simple ones. I thought I didn’t have the ability to complete the tasks. Even worse, I was often overlooked by authority figures to be given the duties in the first place. In my mind, they were confirming what I already believed to be true: I was too inadequate to take on responsibilities.

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Removing the Mask of Depression

Carol Bangura,M.S. Ed., DrPH(c)
Research Fellow, Immigrant Affairs & Language Access Services Unit
Planning & Innovation Division, DBHIDS

I’ve always known that I was different. Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, as an immigrant African woman, I have struggled with major depression all of my life. It’s a topic in my community, as in other communities of color, which is often swept under the rug. 

My depression was caused by numerous issues. After struggling with this issue since my early years, I decided that sharing my experience with depression is a way of empowering other women and girls to do the same, while removing the stigma surrounding depression and other mental health disorders in diverse racial and ethnic communities.

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Using Yoga to Manage Trauma

Julie Caramanico, MS, RYT, RCYT
Yoga Instructor

The body remembers. When I started practicing yoga, I felt really good. Two years in, I became more dedicated to yoga and started doing a more intensive yoga practice (Ashtanga) for a few hours a day.

philadelphia, trauma, yoga

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

Dr. Lawrence 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.

13 reasons why, dr. lawrence real, healthy minds, healthymindsphilly, lawrence real, mental health awareness month

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Yoga & Mental Health

Julie Caramanico, MS, RYT, RCYT
Yoga Instructor

Research about the healing benefits of yoga is growing. Many people are turning to yoga as an emotional release and to improve their mental health. How come? We know that our emotions can be felt as physical sensations in the body. 

philadelphia, wellness, yoga

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A Change in Leadership: My Coping Strategy

Ysaye Zamore
Human Services Incident Response Planner

Much of our country has struggled with the outcome of this election cycle. That’s understandable: negativity, blame, lies, scheming, and misinformation (read: fake news) have plagued this election across both sides of the aisle.  The result?  Post-election stress.

philadelphia, self care

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My Real Journey as a Transgender Woman


Being born male or female comes with specific gender roles and perceived responsibilities with those roles in both a family and in society. In the eyes of my family and society, I was not the typical male that that everyone expected me to be. Growing up as a transgender woman was very difficult. I was not accepted and was subjected to physical, emotional, and social abuse.

lgbtqia, mental health, philadelphia, transformation, transgender

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Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals

Philadelphia Department of Public Health
Division of Disease Control

We are facing a crisis in overdose deaths in Philadelphia. Between 2013 and 2015, fatal drug overdoses increased by more than 50%, from 459 deaths to 702. In 2016, Philadelphia is projected to have 840 drug overdose deaths, which is nearly three times the number of homicides in the city. Eighty percent of those overdose deaths will involve opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl.

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Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

Andrea October, MSS
Clinical Projects Manager, Health Promotion

The snow is falling and the city is bright. There is a chill in the air and a feeling of joy.  The decorations are hung, gifts secured, and family time is confirmed, yet, feelings of sadness and low energy are looming.  Some feelings of sadness and low energy that you may not be aware of could possibly indicate a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

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Become an AskableAdult

Kathy Turnowchyk, M. Ed.
Senior Program Manager, AccessMatters

Early in my career, I received a call at work from a young woman in crisis. She asked where she could place a baby for adoption. When I asked how far along her pregnancy was, I learned she had delivered her baby the night before in her dorm room…without the benefit of a doctor, midwife, hospital, prenatal care or family support. Fearful that her parents would find out, she refused my pleas to seek immediate medical care for her and her baby’s health.  

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Post-Election Stress?

On behalf of Comissioner Arthur C. Evans, PhD

Ballots were cast.  Votes are in. A new president has been elected. Regardless of who you voted for, let’s face it, elections can be stressful.

Today, and in the weeks after the election, you and others around you, may be feeling particularly stressed as a response to the results. The stress and increased emotions can manifest differently in each of us, however, the presence of this stress within us is not to be underestimated. Immense and/or chronic stress can lead to anxiety, increased alcohol use, depression, and other serious health issues.

While these emotional responses are common and understandable, there are things that each of us can do to effectively cope and manage our stress. We have identified a number of strategies and resources to help our community members become and stay strong, resilient and well. Please find some helpful tips below.

Here are suggestions and tips to manage post-election stress (from the American Psychological Association):

  • If the 24-hour news cycle of claims and counterclaims is causing you stress and/or upsetting you, limit your media consumption. Turn off the TV. Take some time for yourself, go for a walk, or spend time with friends and family doing things that you enjoy.
  • Avoid getting into discussions about the election results, especially if you think they have the potential to escalate to conflict. Be cognizant of the frequency with which you’re discussing the results with friends, family, or coworkers.
  • Ruminating about what may happen in the future is not productive. Channel your concerns to make a positive difference on issues you care about. Consider volunteering in your community, advocating for an issue you support or joining a local group. Remember that there are opportunities for civic involvement.
  • If you are having trouble focusing or even going about your routine due to fear, try writing down your worst post-election fears, then address them. If you write them down on a piece of paper, you can address them one by one. Fact check. Think about what is actually possible. Hopefully, this exercise will help you relax and find some peace.
  • If you are experiencing a sense of panic, remember that very little will change overnight. Try to remind yourself that in the weeks to come, there will be very little immediate change for you and/or your family. The new president will not take office until January. And remember, our political system and the three branches of government mean that we can expect a significant degree of stability immediately after a major transition of government. Avoid catastrophizing, and maintain a balanced perspective.
  • According to a recent American Psychological Association article, social media users were more likely to report increased stress related to the election. If using social media is increasing your stress and charging you to respond emotionally, take a break from social media to remove the stressor.
  • Lastly, research shows that being a member of a faith community can provide important social support and comfort during stressful times. Faith can also help us to put events in proper perspective.

If you are still feeling very emotional, here are some additional resources below:

  • Visit Healthy Minds Philly and take a free, 24/7, anonymous, online screening and learn about resources that exist to help you.
  • Call the Philadelphia Warm Line, 855-507-WARM (9276) or 267-507-3945, to speak with a person who also has experienced times of emotional stress. Peers are available Tuesday-Friday from 4-7 p.m.
  • Call our 24/7 Member Service Line, 888-545-2600, to learn about behavioral health services available in Philadelphia.
  • Lastly, if you or someone you care about is in extreme emotional distress and may cause harm to themselves or others, please contact DBHIDS’ Suicide and Crisis Intervention Hotline at 215-686-4420. Trained suicide/crisis intervention professionals are available 24/7, 365 days a year to provide counseling, consultation, and referrals for people seeking assistance for acute psychiatric needs.

Again, if you are having a stressful reaction to the election, it’s important to keep a balanced perspective and help yourself or those around you to cope by utilizing some of the resources above.

Lastly, although we cannot predict exactly what’s ahead as we transition to a new president, we promise one thing will remain constant and that is DBHIDS continues to remain committed to improving the lives of Philadelphians both physically and mentally now and well into the future.

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Out of the Darkness Walk Sheds Light on the Issue of Depression

Regine Tighlman
Public Policy and Advocacy Chair, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention





I lost my 23-year-old brother to suicide on Nov. 9, 2009. I was confused, hurt, angry, and really sad. I lost one of my best friends and what’s worse; I did not see it coming. He was never diagnosed with a mental health problem and, at the time, I did not recognize the signs as red flags.

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Get Ready for National Preparedness Month!

Ysaye Zamore
Human Services Incident Response Planner

September is National Preparedness Month. Over the next 30 days, we are encouraged to think about how to prepare for emergencies. While these may be situations that we cannot control, we can certainly prepare for them.

Most of us don’t think about emergency preparedness regularly. Most days we follow a regular routine. But emergency preparedness helps us most on the bad days that we can’t predict: the day when a natural disaster hits harder than expected, or when a candle falls over and starts a house fire, or when a winter storm knocks out power for a few days.

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Healing for Communities that Experience Violence

Ysaye Zamore
Human Services Incident Response Planner

Over the years, Philadelphia has implemented a number of approaches to strengthen local communities. In particular, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) has implemented multiple programs that reach our neighborhoods— some examples include Mental Health First Aid, Faith and Spiritual Affairs, and Healing Hurt People.

healing hurt people, mental health first aid, network of neighbors, philadelphia, post traumatic stress management, psychological first aid

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For the Gold Stars in the Windows on this Memorial Day

Kristina Boling-Smith, MSW, LSW
Veterans Services Coordinator of the Veterans Initiatives Unit
Behavioral Health & Justice Related Services Division

On Memorial Day, many of us will be off from work, spending time with loved ones, but let us not forget what it signifies-- a day of remembrance for those service members who defended our country and paid the ultimate price.

gold star, memorial day, philadelphia, veterans

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Community-Based Doulas Advancing the Goals of Population Health

Naima Black, Doula, CLC
Coordinator, North Philadelphia Breastfeeding & Community Doula Program
Maternity Care Coalition

In Collaboration With

L’Oreal McCollum, MSW, LSW, M.Ed.
Special Projects Coordinator


The second Sunday in May marked the special day that we celebrate motherhood. We celebrate the impact of mothers within our culture, as well as our personal maternal bonds. With May also being National Mental Health Awareness Month, both instances present a fitting occasion to celebrate and highlight the unique role of doulas in supporting maternal mental health and wellness.

breastfeeding, doulas, maternity care, mother's day, motherhood, philadelphia

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Creative Arts Therapies DO Work

Lindsay M. Edwards, MC, BC-DMT, LPC
Dance/Movement Therapist, Director of Creative Arts Therapy Department
Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University

A poignant article, “How art therapy may help children raised in poverty, violence, and other trauma”, was recently published in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the success of art therapy services at The Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University.  

art therapy, creative arts therapy, dance therapy, drexel university, movement therapy

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Coming Soon to Philadelphia

Regina L. Xhezo
Manager of Special Projects for the CMO
Community Behavioral Health (CBH) 

Imagine a world where the #1 buyer of cigarettes is NOT a person with a mental illness or substance use disorder. 

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The (Not So) Secret to Student Success: A Healthy Mind

Sarah Reyes
Content Manager - Graduation Coach Campaign - Philadelphia

in collaboration with
Dana Careless, LPC
Manager for Health Promotion - DBHIDS

Academic pressure.  Report cards.  Peer pressure.  Detention.  Test results.

When we think of ways to improve a student’s performance in school, improving his or her mental health isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind, but it may be one of the most important factors in student success. 

graduation, graduation coach campaign, mental health, philadelphia, philly, student

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Celebrating the Spectrum!

Carly Banes, MSW
Person First Community Based Services Coordinator
Community-Based Services Development Unit, DBHIDS

“I am so glad to see these conversations are happening amongst behavioral health providers.” 

mental health

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National Depression Screening Day 2015

Dana Careless
Manager for Health Promotion

Picture Citizens Bank Park Stadium.  Look around at all of the seats, row after row, filled with over 40,000 spectators.  Now, I want you to picture dividing the stadium into four equal parts, each part containing over 10,000 individuals.  Statistically speaking, that entire group of people is living with a diagnosable mental health challenge.

anxiety, behavioral health, depression, mental health, national depression screening day, ndsd

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Active Commuting: A Route to Physical and Mental Wellbeing

Dana Careless
Clinical Operations Manager for Health Promotion

Nur Atiqa Asri
Project Analyst
Center for Active Design

"Walk it off." How many times have you heard someone say that to a person who needs to blow off some steam? We have heard that getting some fresh air and exercising can be a great way to relieve stress.  But are our cities designed to encourage this? And if they're not, what does this mean about our stress levels and emotional well-being?

Nur Atiqa Asri, from the Center for Active Design, tackles this head on as she explores what it means to "actively commute" to work and how this shift can dramatically improve our physical and mental well-being. Check out her blog contribution below:

awards, cognitive, communte, depression, health, stress

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The Power of Joining Together:  Recovery Walks! & #UNITE

Andrea Brooks
Manager of Provider Development and Transformation Initiatives

Brooke Feldman
Project Coordinator

When former DBHIDS team member, Brooke Feldman, passed the torch as lead captain of Team DBHIDS for PRO-ACT’s Recovery Walks! to Manager of Provider Development and Transformation Initiatives, Andrea Brooks in 2014, it signified the beginning of a partnership between two champions of recovery. 


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What is Mental Health First Aid…for Youth?

H. Jean Wright II, PsyD
Behavioral Health and Justice-Related Services

Knowing the difference between typical adolescent behavior, and behaviors that should be cause for concern can be difficult to assess for parents, family members, and for those who care for our youth.

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Help Us Help You!

Kathleen Fox
DBHIDS' Health Promotion Intern

Would you be surprised if we told you that only 13% of people who break their arm receive treatment for it? 

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Spring Into May on the Right Foot

Dana Careless
Clinical Operations Manager for Health Promotion

Like most health issues, until they directly impact us, we tend to think mental health issues are something that other people have to deal with. 

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Empire of Stigma

David Monico, MPH
Public Health Program Analyst

Television can captivate a wide audience; it can also serve to educate viewers about important topics, like mental illness. 

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March, A Time to Celebrate!

Wendy Williams, MSW
Public Awareness and ChildFind Coordinator

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has” said Margaret Mead, an American Cultural Anthropologist. This quote contains such truth and reflects the mission of an upcoming DBHIDS event called, My City, My Place Bright Future Awards on March 13th in Philadelphia. This one of a kind event acknowledges “that small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” who make this world a better place

awards, community, intellectual disabilites, wellness

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In Wellness, Art Takes Center Stage

Typically, the worst part of any great performance is when it’s over, but that wasn’t the case at a recent performance I attended as part of the 13th Annual First Person Arts Festival in Philadelphia. It was what happened after the curtain came down that I found most riveting: an opportunity for a profound community dialogue.

The performance featured Kathryn Erbe of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Zach Grenier of CBS' The Good Wife,Broadway star Alex Morf, and Barrymore Award nominee Julianna Zinkel in a dramatic reading of Act III of Eugene O’Neill’s play Long Day's Journey Into Night presented by First Person Arts. The reading painted a bold and intimate portrait of a family struggling under the weight of addiction – a real and important topic that affects millions of people.

addiction, art, catholic, first person, mental health, mural

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Holiday Spirit, Now and Year Round

Marcella A. Maguire, PhD 
Director for DBH Homeless Services

As the weather turns colder, and the holidays beckon, one group of DBHIDS staff and providers are gearing up for the most intense time of the year. Winter, colder temperatures, and ‘Code Blue’s mean that people who live on our streets must take extraordinary measures to survive. But the DBHIDS team who supports them, has a goal not just of survival but of recovery. 

behavioral health, co-occurring, donate, homeless, housing, outreach

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Philadelphia Celebrates NDSD

Today, like any day, you may peruse online, send a few tweets or Facebook posts, give or get advice from a family member or friend, grab coffee or lunch, or run into your local grocery store to pick up the essentials on your way home. We all have our daily routines, a rhythm to things that keep us moving through our hectic schedules.

But what if you could do something that could make a big difference for yourself and those you care about, all without missing a beat?

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The Time is Now

"The Time is Now" Project Aware is a SAMHSA Grant opportunity. Its purpose is to:

  • Build and expand the capacity of state educational agencies
  • Increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth,
  • Provide training for school personnel and other adults who interact with school-aged youth 
  • Detect and respond to mental health issues in children and young adults
  • Connect children, youth, and families who may have behavioral health issues with appropriate services.

Anticipated Award Amount: Up to $1.95 million/year

Submission deadline: June 16, 2014

grant, samhsa

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Rise and Shine Mural Tour

A new season of Porch Light tours is upon us! We are so grateful to be partnering with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program on the "Rise and Shine Mural Tour" inspired by James Burns' stunning mural The North Philadelphia Beacon Project. Take this opportunity to see beautiful public art and learn about inspiring journeys of recovery and healing.

awareness, community, events, mural arts, porch light

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The Recovery-Focused Transformation of an Urban Behavioral Health Care System

Recovery is the process of pursuing a fulfilling and contributing life regardless of the difficulties one has faced. It involves not only the restoration but continued enhancement of a positive identity and personally meaningful connections and roles in one’s community. Recovery is facilitated by relationships and environments that provide hope, empowerment, choices, and opportunities that promote people reaching their full potential as individuals and community members.

commissioner's notes

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How are You Feeling Today?

“I’m going in for a check –up.” Typically we think of check-ups as they relate to our physical health – be it our cholesterol, blood pressure, or weight. We want to take it one step further and encourage you to get a “check up from the neck up." Coined by Patrick Kennedy, encouraging folks to get a “check up from the neck up” is one of our missions.  We want everyone to feel comfortable touching base with how they are feeling.

mental health, screening

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Breaking the Silence: MHFA Training

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a groundbreaking public education and early intervention program that helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of behavioral health challenges. MHFA will be available at the "Breaking The Silence on Mental Wellness: Real Talk, Real Help, Real Solutions Conference” on  April 4th and 5th, 8:00am-6:00pm, at Temple School of Medicine 3500 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140. This conference is focused on addressing stigma related to behavioral health within the African American community. Over 50 diverse workshops geared toward a wide variety of audiences. Behavioral health screenings will be provided to conference participants as part of Saturday's resource fair.

community, events, mhfa, screening, senate

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Welcome to Healthy Minds Philly

When it comes to physical injuries or illness, there is an abundance of sources of information, both online and offline, to guide you to the help you need to get better. Websites, books, family or friends, there’s always somewhere you can turn to. But information and resources about mental illness can be a lot harder to find. It’s not surprising, then, that there are a lot of misperceptions when it comes to behavioral health challenges. Here at DBHIDS, we’re aiming to change that.

commissioner's notes

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