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

A Message to the McClendon Center Community

From Dennis Hobb, Executive Director

George Floyd could have been one of McClendon Center’s clients.  If not a client, he would have been a brother, father, friend, or neighbor of someone we serve. There are no real degrees of separation between the people we serve and George Floyd.

When I saw the video footage of a white police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, I couldn’t believe this actually happened.  I couldn’t believe it because no one should have to believe it.  What could George Floyd have done that would cause four law enforcement officers to participate in killing him, a defenseless man?  Possibly using a fake $20 bill that he might not even have known he had?  Does this justify torturing and killing another human being?  The answer is that nothing justifies this.  Nothing.

We often speak of our clients being marginalized because of their mental illnesses.  What we forget is that, because 96% of our clients are people of color, they are already marginalized.  When I was growing up in the 1960s I assumed that the riots I saw many nights on the evening news would lead to justice and an equality of opportunity for everyone.  Fifty years later, we are still waiting for that to happen.

I understand that people of color are tired of waiting for things to get better.  Exhaustion and resentment are the results of the racism people of color deal with every day.

Every single day.

In 1963, John F. Kennedy gave a speech to the people of the divided city of Berlin in which he said “ich bin ein Berliner”.  He was the leader of the free world identifying with a divided and oppressed people by saying “I am a Berliner”—one of you.  What will it take for our leaders to identify with people of color so that they can say “I am George Floyd”?  How can they begin to tear down walls rather than build them?

McClendon Center is a bridge between what is and what can be.  As much as I see the hatred and racism that people of color experience, I also believe that our work is about building bridges to a better life.  I understand it when some protesters express rage, but I also think that rage can become a dynamic energy that focuses on change for the better.

I am a white male.  I am not George Floyd, and I cannot pretend to understand the systemic injustices and indignities people of color face every day.  But I am a bridge builder, and so are the staff members who work at McClendon Center.  That is what we are about.

The Berlin wall came down 26 years after JFK’s speech.  I hope and pray that compassion and justice will lead to a far better world in a much shorter time.

As we are settling into new ways of doing things we are also finding new ways to serve our clients. Due to the hard work of Aisha Shabazz, McClendon Center’s Day Program Manager, we have started a “Virtual Day Program”.  It took a great deal of effort and organizing for Aisha and her staff but they have created something wonderful. Human connection is so important to our clients and having a dedicated place to go every day and interact with others was important to so many of them. Offering that connection on Zoom can now help to bridge the gap of loneliness. Even more amazing, we have expanded our reach – now serving not only many current MCC clients but now 20 other DC residents. And we see that number growing as we expand the program. Aisha gives a more detailed explanation of how she, her staff, and the clients are benefiting:

Most of our day program clients depend very heavily on the day program.  For many of them it is the only place that they have friends and participate in meaningful activities.  When we realized that the day program would have to close temporarily due to COVID-19, we were very worried about how it would affect the clients.

During the first weeks of the Quarantine, Day Program staff stayed connected to the clients by calling them several times a week to check on their wellbeing (did they have enough food and medication, offering solutions to symptom management and keeping them company).  Although the clients appreciated these calls, after a while all they wanted to know was “when will we be able to come back?” It was very frustrating and actually heartbreaking not to have an answer.

One day a staff member called 6 clients at the same time.  This call lasted for about an hour.  Not only did they miss coming to the day program, they also really missed each other!  Friends are such an essential part of life. The Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) authorized Virtual Day Services at the end of April.  On Monday, May 4th the McClendon Center offered it’s first Virtual Day Programming through Zoom. We do our best to create programing that is very similar to what clients receive at the ACTUAL Day Program. We are currently offering Virtual Day Programming at 4 different sites (a Community Residence Facility (CRF), 2 transitional houses and a group home) through Zoom Meetings. Some of the groups offered are: Art Therapy (we ship art supplies to the sites), Movement/Dance Therapy, Educational Games, Recovery Based Groups and Mental Health Awareness.   Groups are offered at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00. The clients participate in 3 groups daily and then receive lunch, which is delivered by our lunch provider, Catholic Charities.   We also offer groups twice a week through Google Duo for our clients that live independently. So far on average we have been providing Day Services to 20 clients a day. We are planning on adding more sites and expanding our Google Duo groups.This has been challenging at times, because it requires a lot of “technology juggling,” but the feedback from CRF directors, House Managers and clients has been overwhelmingly positive.  The clients report loving seeing their group facilitators and are enjoying groups.  The House managers report that it has been easier to get the clients to “social distance” by remaining in the house, because they aren’t leaving out of boredom. This has been a HUGE team effort that has been very much worth it.

We also want to give an update on our Art of Transformation. Originally we had hoped to move it to November. However, that seems unrealistic given all the uncertainty. We have always put client and staff safety at the top of our list – and we need to keep our friends, family, and supporters safe too. We will have a celebration in person, we just aren’t sure when. We will keep you up to date on planning. We are also working on ways to stay connected in the meantime – so stay tuned for that!

-Dennis

You may be familiar with Giving Tuesday – a global giving event that happens each year right after Thanksgiving. It is normally a time of abundance and gratitude. Giving Tuesday provides a day to give back and say thanks to charities and nonprofits of your choosing. Due to Covid19 and the extraordinary strain it has put on businesses of all types, the non-profit community decided to add a special day this year. Today, May 5th is Giving Tuesday Now. And McClendon Center is taking part. If you are considering giving today we’d love you to think of us. McClendon Center has already received a generous pledge of $2,500 to get our day of giving off to a terrific start. We are very grateful!

Ray Bethel, Office Coordinator at MCC, models one of Ms. Phillip’s handmade masks

We are also happy to report that we can now provide washable reusable masks for clients and staff. Claudelia Davis, LICSW, a Clinical Manager at McClendon Center, told us about her neighbor Helen Phillips. Ms. Phillip is a local seamstress and instructor – and has taught Claudelia’s daughter to sew. Like many of us during the pandemic, Ms. Phillips has switched her business focus from teaching to making one-of-a-kind masks that are functional and fashionable. And McClendon Center asked her to make some for us. We’re pleased to have a member of our community provide these beautiful masks that are made with love and handmade care.

If you can contribute on Giving Tuesday Now there are many ways that your donation can help.
Here are some:

A $10 Gift will provide handmade washable masks to a staff member and a client.

A $25 Gift will buy valuable telephone minutes to add to clients’ phones ensuring we stay connected

A $50 Gift will purchase a gift card for food and toiletries to keep our clients healthy and safe

Above all we hope you are staying safe and healthy.  Thank you to the many of you that have already given and sent encouraging messages. In the coming months we all need to support one another. Already we’re making plans to carefully re-open and to slowly return to business when it’s safe to do so. Things will be different however McClendon Center will continue to do what we have done for 40 years – care and advocate for our those who are struggling with mental health issues. There will be more updates to come.

-Dennis

PS If you make a donation of any size thank you for thinking of McClendon Center!

Things are changing around the District due to Covid19 and some of the more exciting changes have to do with increasing our partnerships.  The Department of Behavioral Health was just awarded a federal grant of which McClendon Center is a part.  Our job is to utilize peer specialists to work with transitions of care at the city’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, and to establish a “warm” line for behavioral health clients who just need to talk.  McClendon Center has a long history of promoting recovery by employing individuals who are also experiencing living with mental illness.  This program will build on that, as well as on our ability to partner with at least one of the peer operated centers in the District.  We are taking on the challenge, just like you’d except us to. These are our neighbors in need and we will continue to be part of the solution.

And we know you want to help too. You’re a part of McClendon Center because you care about your community and the people in it, especially those who are struggling. Recently we have seen amazing gestures of generosity. Some of you have donated your $1,200 stimulus checks to McClendon Center. We are extremely grateful for your generous support. However, a gift of any size is a way you can help, and it will make a difference right now.

Two weeks ago we became aware of clients potentially falling through the cracks in the Coivd19 response from the District. Homeless clients that tested positive for the virus were moved to a hotel in NW to recuperate. Unfortunately, they were not receiving sufficient medical attention or appropriate meals. Our first step was to take care of these clients and then follow-up with the right agencies and advocate for our clients. Caitlin Apo, Clinical Director for the McClendon Center, was interviewed about the situation in an article for the Washington City Paper which outlines the shortfall. Here is a link to the article if you would like to read more
Washington City Paper
Note: in the article it states we are closed – which is incorrect. We have reduced our hours but have not closed the clinic’s doors completely.

-Dennis

PS If you are thinking about donating your stimulus check or making a donation of any size thank you for doing what you can to support our community, it makes a difference!

Small changes in our routines are designed to ensure client and staff safety. For some of our clients taking public transit is beyond their ability. For some, getting to appointments has always required McClendon Center coordinate transportation. Staff continue to pick these clients up and drive them to the clinic for their medications and care.

Always with safety in mind, both staff and client are provided masks and gloves. Staggering appointment times also helps to keep patients safe by ensuring an empty waiting room. The clinic and the office are regularly wiped down with medical grade cleaners throughout the day. It is just the new normal for us.

Sadly, we have had a handful of our clients test positive for Covid 19. Their care is being closely monitored and we advocate on their behalf whenever necessary. It would be easy to get overlooked in the fast paced response by all the various agencies that are involved. McClendon Center tries to stay one step ahead whenever possible. We know you agree –  it is what our clients deserve.

Thank you for your continued interest for the people we serve and the tireless staff providing that care. It is even more meaningful knowing we have your support.
-Dennis

PS – 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.

As cases of Covid 19 peak in our area, and resources and coordination with government agencies become strained, we are all concerned that the most vulnerable might fall through the cracks.

Each day McClendon Center teams download timely client medical records. These invaluable reports allow staff to have up to the minute information on medical care – including Covid 19 testing and results. Teams are then able to prioritize responses, quickly connecting with the most urgent cases.

Recently, we discovered patients that tested positive for Covid 19 and didn’t have an appropriate place to recuperate were moved to a local hotel. McClendon Center teams reached out to those clients and found that in some cases food and medical care was inconsistent. Immediately team mangers visited the location and assessed the situation. While there was some food available it was difficult for sick clients to eat. For many liquids were the only option. Quickly soups and plenty of water and liquids were brought to the hotel by our committed staff. Sometimes the best medicine is a familiar and friendly face that truly cares. Teams continue to monitor the location closely and will provide whatever is needed.

We cannot always anticipate individual needs but we always respond with the highest level of compassion and care. And we know that matters to you. Thank you for your support.

-Dennis

PS . Thank you for continuing to care and stay interested in our critical work. If you are able, please make a donation

As you might imagine, there has been an increase in anxiety, sleeplessness, and nightmares among clients. Things have undeniably changed in our community. However, our individualized approach to care remains – and is more important than ever.

McClendon Center has always provided a 24 hour on call staff member, but recently we have adjusted that.  Each of our five teams now have their own on call staff member. Individual teams know our clients. Knowing their history and individual experiences teams can quickly problem solve with knowledgeable solutions, providing the best care possible.

Last Friday one team responded to a client in crisis and was able to arrange safe accommodations for them that same night. Already in short supply, crisis beds are now even more difficult to access. Immediate psychiatric care has become even more challenging to find as access to emergency rooms has been halted. Being linked to a provider like McClendon Center is essential now to get care.

We are proud to provide that essential support to all our current and new clients. Understandably other agencies have stopped taking on new cases as funds run low and staff is cut. We have not– we are fortunate. We remain fully staffed and are sticking to our commitment to care for our community even in uncertain times.

-Dennis

PS – We are fortunate to continue our work because of generous supporters like you. Your gift, right now, will go to our frontline workers who are providing these critical services in our community. Thank you!

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