Shara Cyrus, our former Day Program Clinical Manager, shares her reflections of her years with McClendon Center. Shara left McClendon Center in August to further her career with the DC Department of Behavioral Health, working with children with behavioral health needs.
There are very rare times that a person is lucky enough to find a place that gives them happiness and purpose at the same time. I was lucky enough to find that in 2012 with McClendon Center. When I got here, during training I saw a wonderful dynamic. I immediately felt a comfort and warmth. The clients shared so openly about their thoughts and feelings. I knew I had found a special place.

During my time here, I worked on the early recovery team for co-occurring disorders. On this track, I was fortunate to facilitate the growth of countless clients. They always credited me with teaching them so much, but the truth is that I learned from them every day. I saw clients come in every day dealing with unimaginable stresses. Homelessness… addiction… trauma…. Abuse…. And yet and still they found a way to smile. They got up every day and fought. Not only day by day, but moment by moment. I learned the true value of a support network and saw strangers come in a blossom into people they never thought they could be. And through it all I was able to witness this transformation.

I know it sounds cliché to say that I am a helper but the truth is I am. I am a helping person who landed in a job that fulfilled me daily. I had a chance to grow along with my clients, from temporary staff to permanent staff, and finally to clinical manager. The experience that I gained here could never be compared to anything. McClendon Center is an unforgettable place. From the moment you walk in the door, you know you belong. If there is one overall lesson that anyone can learn from being here it’s this: Never count anyone out. 

September Message – Dennis Hobb

After a summer of mass shootings, it seems as though the national debate on how to fix what is broken comes down to two major options: restrict the availability of guns or define a group of individuals who should have restricted access to guns. This latter group almost always involves defining persons with mental illness as dangerous individuals. I’m not about to wade into the gun debate, but I am ready to actively debate anyone about the  low degree of violence perpetrated by people recovering from mental illness.

Some individuals with mental illnesses actually are prone to violence, but most who experience these tendencies do well with proper treatment. People who have a mental illness are less likely than the general population to commit violent crimes. In fact, people with mental illnesses are much more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators of it. This may be because they appear to be vulnerable, because their economic realities mean they live in unsafe neighborhoods, or just because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. To hear that people are a heightened danger to others just because they are dealing with a mental health condition is uninformed and wrong.

I don’t know the answer as to how to stop mass shootings. But I do know the answer to how to see people with mental illness as being regular law-abiding people. LOOK AROUND YOU. How many people do you know who are getting counseling or who take an anti-depressant medication?  How many children do you know have ADHD? How many returning veterans have you met with PTSD? How many new moms (and dads) have postpartum depression?  Yes, people with some form of mental illness are all around you. They should not be vilified because they are experiencing a medical condition. Whether or not they should have access to guns is beyond my pay grade, but helping people understand the challenges and accomplishments of people recovering from mental illness is right up my alley.

People with mental illness are not pariahs. They are our friends, neighbors, coworkers, children, relatives, etc. And the statistics say that in your lifetime you are likely to also be one of them.

Let’s not stigmatize people who are recovering from mental illness as being dangerous, violent individuals. Instead, let’s acknowledge their challenges, gifts, and victories—that is what we do at McClendon Center. Join our community of friends and supporters and help us continue to spread the message that people can—and do—recover from mental illness.

McClendon Center featured in DCHA’s Quality Showcase

McClendon Center’s Patient Discharge Coordination (PDC) program, a collaboration with AmeriHealth Caritas DC, was featured in the DC Hospital Association Quality Showcase publication. PDC was launched in 2015, with the goal of reducing hospital readmissions and improving HEDIS* measures by seamlessly transitioning and reintegrating individuals from psychiatric hospitalization back into the community. Since its inception, PDC has reduced hospital admissions from 17% to 9% — a 47% readmission reduction.

Read the full article HERE. Click on PDC for more information about this program.

*Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures six “domains of care”: effectiveness, access/availability, experience, utilization, health plan descriptive information, and collected measures through electronic clinical data systems.

Metro Offices Sponsors Our First Dignity Drive

“Among the most important human needs is the desire for respect and dignity. That need doesn’t change when a person becomes ill or disabled. Indeed, it may grow even stronger.”
                                                                                                    — National Caregivers Library

What’s one of the first things you do when you get up in the morning? Besides eat breakfast, you most likely shower, brush your teeth, shave or wash your face — routine self-care before you head out the door. And you probably don’t think twice about buying toiletries or personal hygiene products.

But what if you had to make a choice between spending your money on medication, food, or toiletries? What if you don’t have any money at all? Soap, clean underwear, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products can mean a world of difference to a person recovering from mental illness, who may also be homeless or otherwise economically disadvantaged. (We estimate that one-third of our clients are homeless or living in community residential facilities.)

We are grateful to Metro Offices for sponsoring our first-ever Dignity Drive on our behalf. At each of their DC and Greater Washington locations, Metro Offices gathered bags and bags of toiletries, hygiene items, underwear, and other everyday necessities, which are being distributed to our clients. We know that with basic needs met*, our clients are better able to focus their energy on recovery, independence, and a better quality of life. (*McClendon Center’s Day Program also distributes two nutritious meals each day to program participants.)

Caitlin Gritt, McClendon Center Board member, who made the introductions between Metro Offices and McClendon Center, commented “We’re advocating on behalf of those we serve — because many of them cannot speak for themselves. I’m so grateful to work in such a supportive office space, surrounded by generous, engaged citizens.”


If you would like to host a Dignity Drive at your office, or as part of a community service project, please contact Elissa Brooks ( or use our Donate Now button to make a financial contribution.

Are you a Nats Fan?

Are you a Nats fan? Then you’re going to want to be at the Art of Transformation event on April 26!

We’re raffling off two INFIELD BOX tickets to a 2018 (regular season) home game! Sports Illustrated predicts that the Nats will win the World Series this year so if you’ve never seen the Nats play, then this is the year to go! (Infield Box tickets donated by the Washington Nationals)

But you can only win if you’re at the Art of Transformation event — buy your ticket today by CLICKING HERE.

Your support of  this event is so important to our clients, especially those who use art as a therapeutic tool. In addition to raising critical funds for our arts therapy and other programs, your ticket purchase, sponsorship, and/or gift will help us cover the costs of our meal program for our Day Program participants.