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Pew awards $6.55 million to five Philly nonprofits to address youth mental health

One of the nonprofits is the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, which will receive $4 million.

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The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today that it is awarding $6.55 million to five Philadelphia-area nonprofits working to increase accessibility to critically needed mental and behavioral health services for the region’s children and teens. 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising gun violence and drug overdose deaths, young people are experiencing an overload of stresses and trauma, resulting in the U.S. surgeon general deeming children’s mental health a national crisis.

According to CDC data that Pew analyzed in March, rates of depression and anxiety among children and adolescents nationally have doubled, and a staggering 22% of high school students in 2021 reported having seriously considered suicide.

In Philadelphia, the need for mental health services is critical, considering that more than one-third of people live in poverty. 

“Philadelphia’s children deserve the very best care to support their emotional well-being and help them thrive, particularly in light of the challenges they have faced during the pandemic,” said Kristin Romens, project director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Fund for Health and Human Services.

Multiple barriers to accessing treatment, including an insufficient number of mental and behavioral health professionals and support staff; a lack of specialized care and services, such as culturally responsive and trauma-informed care, particularly for Black and Latino Philadelphians; facilities not easily accessible to the neighborhoods with the greatest need; and stigmatization around mental health have simply exacerbated the crisis. 

Pew’s support will help the grantees scale evidence-based care, bolster the region’s mental health workforce through new recruitment and retention efforts, and innovate to improve accessibility and treatment quality for specialized populations.

The five organizations that will receive grants are:

  • Children’s Crisis Treatment Center (CCTC). Awarded $4 million over 5 years to create and adopt a business plan to expand its services throughout Philadelphia and enable the organization to treat an additional 2,000 children annually. The plan will include a new North Philadelphia site that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has classified as a medically underserved community. The new outpatient clinic will complement CCTC’s existing school- and community-based programs and acute treatment facility in the neighborhood and help the agency provide more care coordination to address the impacts of poverty. 
  • Center for Families and Relationships (CFAR). Awarded $1.8 million over 5 years to undergo a business planning process with the goal of expanding its therapy services to double the number of Philly-area young people served annually to 4,000. The expansion will include two new physical locations that will be determined based on community needs and existing provider and referral partnerships in those areas. The agency will also increase the number and diversity of Philadelphia-area clinicians licensed in trauma-informed and systemic family approaches to children and youth mental health by adding more staff members to train interns and lead professional development programs. 
  • Child Guidance Resource Centers. Awarded $250,000 over 2 years to address the community-based youth mental health workforce shortage throughout the Philadelphia region by enhancing and expanding its professional development center. The organization will tailor its intern recruitment program to attract and more effectively support individuals of color, first-generation college students, and nonclinical staff; expand the number of licensure candidates and supervisors in its no-cost clinical supervision program; and design and implement post-licensure support, including peer groups attuned to the complex client needs that behavioral health professionals encounter. 
  • Philadelphia’s Children’s Alliance. Received $250,000 over 2 years to help address gaps in identifying and providing appropriate treatment for children under 10 who exhibit “problematic sexual behavior.” Although these children are often the victims of sexual abuse or exposure to sexual activity, they are rarely connected to treatment, as only 6% of 600 identified cases were referred to clinical services in 2022. Instead, the behavior is often minimized, excused, or criminalized. With the additional support, the Children’s Alliance will implement a four-part strategy: raise awareness of these children among Philadelphia’s clinical community; provide technical assistance to the organization’s multidisciplinary partners — such as the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, the Philadelphia Police Department, hospitals, and the district attorney’s office — to strengthen identification, referral, and coordination to ensure that children and families are more consistently offered treatment; pilot a holistic treatment model that meets the children’s therapeutic needs; and train and support at least 50 clinicians from partner providers to help sustain the model.
  • Penn Medicine’s Pediatric Anxiety Treatment Center at Hall-Mercer (PATCH). Received $250,000 over two years to expand the availability of and access to specialized treatment for the growing number of children and youth with anxiety disorders, particularly among the city’s Black and Latino communities, which are home to 45% and 23% of Philadelphians aged 4-18, respectively. PATCH — the only program in the city’s public mental health system specializing in exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy for youth — will expand its staffing capacity while building a strategy to increase the availability of culturally responsive treatment for young people of color. This includes forming a family advisory board to guide recruitment and support for Black and Latino youth, increasing the number of children treated from these communities over two years, and educating peer providers and clinical programs on culturally responsive practices.

“It’s imperative that we invest in making specialized services more widely available and accessible to those who need them most. That’s why Pew is supporting these five grantees,” said Romens. 

“Whether the organizations are planning to expand to physical locations in new neighborhoods or create innovative ways to attract and retain a diverse workforce within the public mental health system, all recognize the dire need to have treatment and services meet people where they are, using culturally relevant, multilingual, and trauma-informed approaches,” she concluded.

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