This year we are thankful we are still serving our clients despite Covid19 difficulties. We are thankful for our resourceful staff. And we are incredibly grateful to our donors that have stood by us this year.

Many of our clients are food insecure. As part of our virtual Day Program we always provide lunch delivery. However this year we made sure they were able to enjoy a special thanksgiving meal on Wednesday. Over lunch an important discussion began; was pumpkin or sweet potato pie was better? In the end, sweet potato came out the winner. If you are looking for ways to support MCC and important programs like this, we have included a few creative ideas below.

If you’re shopping virtually this year you may be visiting Amazon. Amazon Smile is a program where they give a small percentage to the charity of your choice. Simply sign up on Amazon and MCC will benefit! For details click here: Amazon Smile

Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the years, it has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. If you’re going to give on Giving Tuesday consider giving locally – to MCC.   Whether it’s a large gift or small gift anything that’s meaningful to you is meaningful to us.

If a donation isn’t an option right now you can support us by joining us online on December 9th at 6:30 pm for a free virtual event. Click for more info and signup Art of Appreciation

Did you know the new CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act allows taxpayers to take a charitable deduction of up to $300 ($600 for married couples) for those who take the standard deduction? For those who do itemize their deductions, the new law allows for cash contributions to qualified charities such as McClendon Center to be deducted up to 100% of your adjusted gross income for the 2020 calendar year.

2020 is rapidly, and thankfully, coming to an end. I’m hopeful that 2021 will be a far better year for everyone than we have experienced during many of the last few months. In light of new beginnings, I want to share with you the news of my retirement. I will retire January 4, 2021. Coming to this decision was not easy. Being a part of McClendon Center for 17 years has been a terrific time in my life. I have been privileged to work with so many wonderful clients and staff members. I have seen positive changes in the lives of so many of our clients. As I’ve told the Board of Directors, I feel like I have been the luckiest of Executive Directors. However, it’s time to move on to the next phase of my life. As I make that transition, McClendon Center will be in Shean Dyson’s very capable hands. Shean was appointed by the Board of Directors as the Interim CEO of the McClendon Center, with all legal authority for the agency to be conveyed to her on January 4th. It is a relief to me that Shean has agreed to do this, and I have full confidence in her to shepherd the agency until the new President and CEO is in place in early 2021. Candidates for the permanent position are currently being reviewed, and interviews will likely begin just after the holidays. The Board of Directors expects someone to be in the position around April 1st next year.

Once the pandemic is under control, we will have some sort of celebration of our time together. However I encourage you to join us for the Art of Appreciation, a virtual event, on December 9th at 6:30 pm. It will be an uplifting night that will include an art therapy demo, games, and prizes. This free event is our way to say thank you to you- our supporters. You have stood by MCC and our clients and we want to show you our appreciation. More information and details can be found here Art of Appreciation

As many of you know once you’re part of the MCC family you’re always a part of the family. So I will continue to support MCC and I hope you will do the same. The mission to prepare those recovering from mental illness to improve their quality of life continues. I may be moving on but our clients will still need our care and support.

Hope to see you at the December event.

With much gratitude,

Dennis Hobb
Executive Director

As a thank you to everyone who has been supporting us throughout the year we are hosting the Art of Appreciation.  We would like to invite all our supporters to join us for a night of fun and games – couldn’t we all use that? There will be an interactive art therapy* demo lead by our art therapist Tyler Strusowski, a chance to win two JetBlue tickets to anywhere they fly, and the opportunity to purchase client art online – something we’ve never offered before. Join us December 9th at 6:30 pm. This is a free event, though we are suggesting a $40 donation in honor of our 40 years serving the District. Details and sign up is available online at mcclendoncenter.org

*What is Art Therapy? Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy where art is used as a communication tool. One way to understand this is to consider that we all experience internal imagery as thoughts, memories, the imagination, or sensations and impressions. The only way another person can peek inside someone’s head to see this internal imagery is if it is made into art. Art therapists assist their clients with understanding, interpreting, and exploring the meaning of the imagery communicated through the art created within the context of art therapy. The process of creating art is a multisensory experience. It involves the use of various parts of the brain, such as the visual and tactile systems, as well as brain areas involved with movement and problem-solving. Activating these various parts of the brain can reveal preverbal sensory information, which can come forth as stored unconscious information. Thus, art therapy can potentially bypass a client’s defense mechanisms in a way that is non-threatening broadening self-insight and understanding.

There have been some troubling trends in the news lately. Nationally from January to September 2020, there was a 62% increase on the number of depression screens over 2019 data. While rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are increasing for people of all races and ethnicities, there are notable differences in those changes over time. Black or African American screeners have had the highest average percent change over time for anxiety and depression. Over 85% of MCC clients are African American and we can see these national statistics bear out in DC.

At MCC we have seen a disturbing trend in client deaths this year. None are directly attributed to Covid19 – though one client, who was not tested for the virus, passed of “respiratory failure”, though he had no known history of respiratory problems. While we cannot pinpoint the increase in deaths to one cause or causes we know it mirrors nationwide statistics. There is a 30% increase in national death rates not attributed to Covid19. In DC, many of our clients have competing health issues and, fearful of the virus, have been less apt to seek medical care for those issues. For others the isolation caused by the pandemic exacerbates their condition. Last week we saw an increase in Major Unusual Incidents (MUI’s) at MCC. This is when a client needs immediate care for a crisis situation. Normally we would have one or two MUI’s per week. We can speculate on reasons, however, we do know one thing for certain – our services are more necessary now than they ever were.

As a follower of our work you know the unique kind of care we provide. We know our clients. We know more than just their names – we know their stories, their particular needs or individual likes and dislikes, and what works for them and what doesn’t. We see them as individuals, as real people, and that is what makes us who we are. Thank you for being a part of this and for your ongoing support! We hope to see you at the Art of Appreciation.

World Mental Health Day October 10th

World Mental Health Day was first launched in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). This year’s theme is: Mental Health for All.

The world is experiencing the unparalleled effects of the current global health emergency due to COVID-19 that has also impacted the mental health of millions of people. We know that anxiety, isolation, fear, social distancing and restrictions, uncertainty and emotional distress have become widespread as the world struggles to bring the virus under control.

In the US this has proved to be a difficult and divisive period in our history. As we struggle to find normalcy in our daily lives we can use World Mental Health Day to remember that simple acts of kindness can help heal ourselves and one another.

Here in DC, the people McClendon Center cares for are often the most undeserved. The majority of our clients live in Wards 7 and 8, a part of Washington that has long been underserved. Over 130,000 people live in these Wards with limited access to quality mental health care. Residents are predominantly low-income and African American, and experience higher rates of mental health problems compared with the rest of the District. As the city tries to find its way and stay afloat financially we cannot forget about our disadvantaged neighbors. At McClendon Center we have remained focused on our clients’ needs and remarkably (but perhaps not surprisingly – because we always find a way), we have increased our Day Program attendance by 10%- serving more clients than before COVID-19, all while facing more than a projected million dollar budget loss for the coming year.

We need your support.  

In honor of our 40th year serving the District’s most vulnerable residents, we are asking our supporters to become monthly donors. A $40 monthly sustaining gift will allow us to continue to serve our current clients and serve new ones as the need continues to rise. By checking the “Make this contribution monthly” box on our donation page you will help sustain McClendon Center for another 40 years, and beyond.

Together we are stronger and together we can make a substantive difference – starting in our own communities. World Mental Health Day reminds us to raise awareness with a unifying voice to take action and to create lasting change.

 

With thanks,

Dennis Hobb

Executive Director, McClendon Center

We are going out into the community more often, slowly increasing our in person contact with our clients. We continue to follow all health and safety guidelines and offer gloves, masks and barriers for cars for transporting clients when necessary. We know that as the pandemic is prolonged our work is needed more than ever. Loneliness and isolation are difficult for everyone – but for our clients it is more difficult, and in some cases can even be life threatening. For some we are their only lifeline, and there is no substitute for person to person contact. So with safety in mind, we continue to meet client’s needs.

We also look for the good things that come from adversity. As we have been reporting the Day Program has been expanding since it went online in May. Out of necessity we formed several daily programs virtually – many in local group homes. As the word spread so did our outreach. But something wonderful and unexpected happened too. There were residents, which for various reason​s, would not have been able to attend the in person Day Program in the past. For some, mobility due to illness or age would have been an obstacle. But that is no longer the case. This week we served two clients that are both receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer. They are weakened by their treatments but able to come and spend time in our virtual Day Program and enjoy the community and care provided there. In the past they would not have been able to get in a van and travel to our in person Day Program. It simply would have been too much for them physically. The need to maintain this virtual service is clear. We will advocate for the ability to hold these groups in the future – even after we are able to return in person. Offering both in person and virtual Day Programs will allow us to serve multiple clients in the way most effective for each of them. Meeting the need often means meeting people where they are –both figuratively and literally.

Thank you for your continued support – and for being part of the McClendon Center community. We are grateful you are!

Meet Sandra – she is a McClendon Center artist and client. At MCC she learned that being creative is a way to express herself and to work through the uncertainty and loneliness of quarantine during Covid19.

When the in person Day Program closed due to the pandemic Sandra didn’t let that stop her from continuing to paint and create. She shared with us some of the pieces she has been working on over the past few months. We are sure you are as impressed as we are that she continued her art despite the challenges of quarantine. She is currently enrolled in the virtual Day Program that has been expanding since it went online in May. She will join the online classes this week. Since beginning the Virtual Day Program in May, there have been many changes and improvements as we use technology to bridge the gap and problem solve. Day Program staff are currently facilitating 84 groups per week. Staff continue to expand the program by training some clients to use their smartphones to connect via Zoom or by adding another platform: Google Duo. The addition of Google Duo allows us to reach eleven more clients who live independently and couldn’t take part in the group home sessions.  Other obstacles included access to computers. The program began using laptop computers, but in July MCC donated desktop computers with large monitors and higher quality cameras to 5 of our 8 locations. This allowed for an improved group experience as clients are now able to see the screens more clearly and interact with one another more easily. Utilizing the technology available and fine-tuning when necessary allows us to provide a sense of routine and a structured experience to more clients – both new and existing. Staying regularly connected to one another is vital for everyone during this time of isolation.

The work we do at McClendon Center is not always ordinary. When we are looking for new team members we are seeking an out of the ordinary kind of person. Often the job requires staff to think outside the box. A great example of this kind of caring happened a few years ago when a client didn’t want to receive hospital care because it meant leaving their dog unattended. The McClendon Center staff member promised to walk the dog herself until she was able to coordinate care with a neighbor. Relieved, the client received the necessary care knowing her four legged family member was taken care of – and the standard at McClendon Center unofficially became ‘are you willing to walk the dog?’

 

While our primary goal is to help with mental health care more often than not it also means assisting with housing, other types of healthcare related issues, substance abuse, and more. Even getting basic forms completed to be eligible to receive care is an obstacle. Imagine experiencing homelessness and losing your belongings and documents. Without a birth certificate you cannot get an ID. Without an ID you cannot receive benefits for care or fill out any type of application. Obtaining those kinds of essential documents can be a challenging web for some of our clients – and is something we routinely help our clients with.

We also help to restore dignity. Last year there was a young man who was regularly attending the Day Program but seemed withdrawn. Staff noticed his clothes were torn and often dirty. The fix was simple; two McClendon Center staff member along with the young man hopped into an Uber and set off to Target. He was given $150 to buy the clothes and shoes he wanted. When he returned to the Day Program in his new attire the transformation was noticeable and it wasn’t just on the outside – though he often pointed out his new outfits with pride. He became more engaged and outgoing and began to thrive. In some ways it’s hard to tell who was more pleased – the deserving client or the staff members who could make such a simple yet significant gesture possible. There are countless other examples I could give of this level of caring.

Even before the Covid 19 crisis we were finding solutions outside the expected ways of doing things. This client first way of solution solving is what sets us apart and makes us particularly adaptable during crisis. We are determined to continue this level of individual care and caring – with your support.

In the midst of the constant change and uncertainty that everyone is experiencing McClendon Center is doing what it does best – focusing on caring for our clients. Many of those efforts usually mean direct care, but recently, the District announced nearly $20 million in budget cuts to the Department of Behavioral health (DBH) that threaten our ability to care for our underserved communities. Our committed and knowledgeable Board of Directors used their voices to advocate for McClendon Center. Here are some excerpts from their recent testimony given to the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Health for the Budget Oversight Hearing.

Caitlin Gritt Vice Chair, McClendon Center Board of Directors Founding Partner, Bisceglie & Gritt, PLLC offers her insights: “For 40 years, McClendon Center has provided critical programs and services to DC’s most vulnerable residents — those diagnosed with severe mental illness — empowering them to live more independently and improve their quality of life.  Our organization is certified as both a Core Services Agency and a provider of Rehabilitation/Day Services.  Last year, we served 4,500 people.  91% of our clients are African-American.  28% of them are homeless or staying in shelters.  One-third of them are 55 years of age or older.
I volunteered to join McClendon Center’s Board of Directors because I care deeply about the wellbeing of my neighbors and the health of my community.  On behalf of those we serve — many of whom cannot speak for themselves — I am asking for your assistance in eliminating the proposed DBH budget cut, so that McClendon Center and other agencies throughout the city can serve as many residents as possible, helping them to live safer, healthier, more independent lives.”

David Harris is Co-Founder of Song Dog Spirits and a McClendon Center Board Member since 2014. David writes: “The era of a global pandemic is exactly the wrong time to balance the city’s budget on the backs of the city’s most vulnerable residents. This is not just a matter of helping support the behavioral health of the District’s long-term residents in dire need of those services; such a budgetary change can also jeopardize their housing, their Medicaid eligibility and essential healthcare as well.
I am appealing to your sense of justice and respectfully asking you and the Council to ensure that these cuts do not transpire, and that we protect and – if anything – we add to the funds allocated to helping our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Divya Moolchandani offers her voice to the conversation: “As a healthcare professional, I assure you the downstream implications of these service caps and any associated reduction in other services is tremendous. By cutting this significant amount designated for community support, the District’s disenfranchised residents, and our clients, will subsequently lose housing, Medicaid eligibility, job opportunities, and access to food and other services.
My job today, as a Board member, is to represent the voice of the Center’s clients and staff, so that they achieve their highest degree of mental health recovery and independence. Your job, as a Council member, is to represent the voices of the community, so all can have equal access to the foundational support they need to try to live happy, healthy, lives. We both have an obligation and moral directive to do our jobs. The $20 million budget cut from service caps on community support and assertive community treatment, coupled with adding medical necessity requirements, will harm our community, especially those that need the most help. Reject these cuts.”

Their full statements are posted on our Here. I encourage you to read them in their entirety.

We are encouraged and optimistic as we move forward knowing we have the strong support of our dedicated Board of Directors advocating for our deserving clients. And as you’ve always known McClendon Center’s work is much more than the services we provide.

-Dennis

PS If you would like to make a donation to you can on our website McClendon Center Give Your essential support is always appreciated! Thank you.

Testimony before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Health
Budget Oversight Hearing
Submitted by Divya Moolchandani
McClendon Center’s Board of Directors

To the DC Council,
My name is Divya Moolchandani and I am a Board of Director for DC’s McClendon Center, as well as a healthcare consultant primarily serving the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The McClendon Center helps more than 4,500 DC men and women who come to the Center for primary care needs and psychosocial services, including counseling, community support, housing assistance, art and movement therapy groups, and counseling for those with both mental health and substance use disorders. All of our clients are diagnosed with severe mental illness, and many represent our most disenfranchised community members. Nearly 91% of our clients are African American, ages range from 19 to 96 (33% are 55 or older), and 28% are homeless or staying in shelters. Depressive disorders comprise the #1 diagnosis (39%) followed by schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders (25%), and bipolar disorders (17%). All of our clients are working toward recovery, independence, and personal success.
I come to you with direct asks. DC’s Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) is planning to cut about $20 million from its budget by imposing service caps on community support and assertive community treatment. Based on our own agency’s data, service caps will not be able to generate the proposed savings, which means that additional services will need to be cut to save the projected amount. I have identified DBH’s proposed changes to save money below, and respectfully request that you reject the service caps to community support and assertive community treatment. As a healthcare professional, I assure you the downstream implications of these service caps and any associated reduction in other services is tremendous. By cutting this significant amount designated for community support, the District’s disenfranchised residents, and our clients, will subsequently lose housing, Medicaid eligibility, job opportunities, and access to food and other services.
— DBH seeks to impose additional medical necessity criteria for all services, which the Council should NOT approve. While it is important that our clients get services for which they qualify, imposing additional, restrictive medical necessity criteria will be counter-productive and create unnecessary cost burden by putting paperwork over patient care. Medical necessity authorizations will cost the District’s providers and staff in submitting, approving, and appealing authorizations. As evidenced by private sector health plans and Medicare, burdensome medical necessity criteria costs more dollars and creates little-to-no cost savings, while disrupting the continuity of care for patients, who are District residents in this case.
— DBH is sacrificing an estimated $1 million by not filling 8 vacant positions, and the Council should instead consider other positions to eliminate in addition to not filling these 8 positions. The community will be sacrificing far more than that by having to lay off enough staff system wide, to eliminate services to members of our community that need it the most. The goal for this is ask to avoid having the provider system lay off any staff who are providing direct services since these services are vital to thousands of disadvantaged individuals.
I respect the Council because all of you felt a call to serve a greater purpose, as I did with the McClendon Center and its clients, and I implore you to listen to my ask. During our time in quarantine, many have struggled with mental health challenges, and the need for community engagement and social interaction to combat isolation. Our clients essentially live in this mental state every day, and The McClendon Center provides the haven that disenfranchised District residents need to help address these mental needs. These service caps and any additional service cuts will be another consequence in a long chain of inequalities that have left people in those predominantly African American communities more vulnerable due to chronic condition and lack of consistent access to care.
My job today, as a Board member, is to represent the voice of the Center’s clients and staff, so that they achieve their highest degree of mental health recovery and independence. Your job, as a Council member, is to represent the voices of the community, so all can have equal access to the foundational support they need to try to live happy, healthy, lives. We both have an obligation and moral directive to do our jobs. The $20 million budget cut from service caps on community support and assertive community treatment, coupled with adding medical necessity requirements, will harm our community, especially those that need the most help. Reject these cuts.

 

 

Testimony before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Health

Budget Oversight Hearing
Submitted by Caitlin Gritt
Vice Chair, McClendon Center’s Board of Directors

June 10, 2020

Committee Chair Gray and other distinguished Council members of the Committee on Health:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding the proposed FY 2021 Budget for the Department of Behavioral Health (“DBH”). My name is Caitlin Gritt. I have been a resident of the District of Columbia for over a decade, and I serve on the Board of Directors of McClendon Center, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For 40 years, McClendon Center has provided critical programs and services to DC’s most vulnerable residents — those diagnosed with severe mental illness — empowering them to live more independently and improve their quality of life. Our organization is certified as both a Core Services Agency and a provider of Rehabilitation/Day Services. Last year, we served 4,500 people. 91% of our clients are African-American. 28% of them are homeless or staying in shelters. One-third of them are 55 years of age or older.

The proposed FY 2021 Budget contemplates a staggering ~$21 million reduction in DBH’s funding for community-based support services and assertive community treatment. Such a draconian cutback has severe ramifications for the budgets of mental health agencies across the District and the DC residents who we serve together. Without this crucial funding, some city mental health providers may not remain financially viable, and the predictable consequence will be a shortchanging of the clients who rely on them. Without this essential support, our DC neighbors are susceptible to losing their Medicaid eligibility, their healthcare, their housing, and their access to services that help address inequities in Social Determinants of Health, such as food insecurity and lack of employment opportunities.

In the midst of a global pandemic and record unemployment — when marginalized individuals require more care, not less — and during a time of civil unrest due to ongoing racial injustice, DC’s Budget should prioritize the health of its residents by promoting access to services, rather than putting them at greater risk of illness and/or death.

I volunteered to join McClendon Center’s Board of Directors because I care deeply about the wellbeing of my neighbors and the health of my community. On behalf of those we serve — many of whom cannot speak for themselves — I am asking for your assistance in eliminating the proposed DBH budget cut, so that McClendon Center and other agencies throughout the city can serve as many residents as possible, helping them to live safer, healthier, more independent lives.

Thank you for your time, your consideration, and your service to our city.

 

 

Testimony before the Council of the District of Columbia
Committee on Health, Budget Oversight Hearing
Submitted by David A. Harris
Member, McClendon Center Board of Directors

Founder, Song Dog Spirits LLC

June 10, 2020

Committee Chair Gray and other distinguished members of the Committee on Health:

Thank you for this opportunity to submit written testimony regarding the proposed FY 2021 Budget for the Department of Behavioral Health (“DBH”). I have been a proud District resident for almost three decades, and I serve on the Board of Directors of McClendon Center, which as you know is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization providing essential behavioral health services and support to marginalized residents in the District of Columbia. I am proud that our amazing agency staff was able to serve and support more than 4,000 District residents last year, the vast majority being African American.

This is precisely the wrong time to cut more than $20 million from DBH funds available for community support and treatment. This action will jeopardize the health and well-being of some of the District’s most marginalized citizens, while threatening the financial health of the providers of these vital behavioral health services.

The era of a global pandemic is exactly the wrong time to balance the city’s budget on the backs of the city’s most vulnerable residents. This is not just a matter of helping support the behavioral health of the District’s long-term residents in dire need of those services; such a budgetary change can also jeopardize their housing, their Medicaid eligibility and essential healthcare as well.

If there has been any silver lining to recent horrifying events, it’s seeing people come together across ethnic, generational and religious lines to recognize and fight racial injustice and support African Americans. The District of Columbia cannot and should not choose to further disenfranchise its own African American citizens right now – against this backdrop – by denying them access to the support they desperately need and deserve.

I am appealing to your sense of justice and respectfully asking you and the Council to ensure that these cuts do not transpire, and that we protect and – if anything – we add to the funds allocated to helping our most vulnerable neighbors.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to share my testimony, and for your good work and continued service to our city.

We have good news about McClendon Center’s important work, the work that you support, but first we want to say how concerned we are about you. Across the nation we are experiencing many challenges, some medical and others social. The sadness, anger, and uncertainty that we are all feeling right now is real. Practicing good self-care is essential and we urge you to try and stay connected and healthy. These difficult times won’t last forever. Finding goodness in our world can bring hope – so we want share an encouraging story with you in this update.

Recently McClendon Center staff received a note from Howard University Hospital (HUH) staff.  It speaks to how our services benefit high needs individuals who are without many options. This client was admitted to HUH psych after he was located with his step father’s decomposed body. He experienced extensive abuse by the stepfather and was isolated from the public for an extensive amount of his youth.  We were concerned that upon his release from the hospital he would be discharged to a shelter.  Due to his low intellectual functioning we knew that he would be extremely vulnerable and unable to live on the street.  This consumer required extensive out of the box thinking and interventions during this very complicated time at HUH. One of McClendon Center’s challenges was that the member required more than mental health services but was not enrolled with any other services due to ineligibility. To complicate things further, there were many providers with their hands in this case but solutions were not being communicated.  By acting as the coordination team for this client we were able to initiate and host weekly Zoom meetings to get all of the providers talking and planning.  We created an action plan and followed up with other providers to ensure that steps were being taken to apply for Department of Disability Services eligibility, Supplemental Security Income through Social Security, and to explore housing options.  Further complicating things, these efforts had to be expedited when HUH changed their process to only serving COVID positive patients. The member was discharged from HUH to a residential group home where he can continue to receive support while living in the community.  This was a much more ideal option than discharging to a shelter considering his low level of daily functioning and we are happy we could play a part in ensuring this positive outcome.

This is a great example of the work we are doing. A big shout out to Clinical Mangers Claudelia Davis, LICSW, and Ariel VanDoren, M. A., LPC and their dedicated teams for bringing this client’s case to the forefront and sticking with him over the last 68 days. It is small victories like this that have added up to 40 years of McClendon Center’s success, and without your support it wouldn’t be possible.

Thank you for your continued support – and stay well.

Dennis

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