Mental health initiative for E. Baltimore

March 15, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

A partnership led by the Johns Hopkins University announced plans today for an extensive new network of mental health clinics and services in East Baltimore, intended to reach children with serious emotional and behavior problems.

This summer, the partnership is to open mental health clinics staffed by psychologists and social workers at each of the 19 East Baltimore elementary and middle schools.

A $15 million grant from the federal government will help pay for what initially is to be a five-year effort in an area that includes some of the city's roughest neighborhoods, with high levels of crime and street violence.

As outlined today, the network is designed to coordinate the often-disjointed efforts of various government agencies, ranging from law enforcement to social services.

"It really does take a whole village to raise a child," said Philip Leaf, executive director of the partnership and professor of mental hygiene at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, alluding to an African proverb.

"Often," he continued, "parents are so overwhelmed, taking on more than any one human being could handle when they're trying to deal with so many different services and agencies.

"We often hear from these children and their parents when there's the possibility of removing a children from a home, or addiction, or suicide threat. We want to focus more on prevention instead of crisis-intervention."

The newly named East Baltimore Mental Health Partnership will offer emergency overnight stays for children living in homes plagued by child abuse, violence or addictions.

In addition, the university plans to open community-based clinics with crisis-intervention staff on call 24 hours a day.

Another element of the program will involve hiring at least a dozen "community liaisons" to identify children in need of counseling or social services.

Counseling services also will be available in Head Start pre-school programs.

Hopkins officials joined Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and representatives of other state agencies and community organizations to announce the effort at Madison Square Elementary School and Recreation Center in East Baltimore. One of the clinics will open at the center.

Services will be available to 600 youths, ages 2 to 18, when the clinics open this summer.

The university's School of Hygiene and Public Health will work with partners that include the city and state school systems, the police department, juvenile services workers, clergy, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Liberty Medical Center, health and social service agencies and mental health providers.

Hopkins' proposal beat out many others in the competition for grants from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to finance innovative pilot programs to reach inner-city youngsters.

The federal department had received 47 proposals, but provided money for only four of them.

In early February, the Hopkins medical institutions, the city and state announced an even broader program of providing aid to the struggling, impoverished East Baltimore area.

In that program, plans were outlined for revitalizing about 180 square blocks, the hope at that time being to attract "tens of millions" in development money over the next few years.

An entity called the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition was formed with the goal of improving housing, fostering business development and jobs and to improve social services in the decayed neighborhoods around Hopkins Hospital.

At the time of the February announcement, Mayor Schmoke said that the East Baltimore effort, along with Sandtown-Winchester, would help the city compete to be one of nine federal empowerment zones, a designation that would bring in $100 million in new money from the federal government.

The coalition announced last month was established with grants of $150,000 apiece from the city, the state and Hopkins medical institutions, for a total of $450,000. Part of its mission was to seek government grants and private investors.

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