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Welcome to the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities Services

Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services

Promoting Wellness for All Communities

The Community-Based Services Development Unit oversees the development and implementation of innovative community-based partnerships and strategies to help people in recovery positively integrate into their communities. Through a public health approach CBSD conducts an array outreach and engagement community building activities designed to bring awareness to the importance of emotional wellness. In addition to these activities the Unit creates initiatives designed to reach individuals who may disproportionately access services and taskforces to ensure services provided are person-first oriented (culturally competent).

These community-building activities include:

  • Building and strengthening partnerships with community and faith-based organizations, providers, advocacy organizations, people in recovery, and family members
  • Providing local community education about mental health, addictions challenges, and recovery to promote greater understanding and acceptance of the needs of people in recovery
  • Identifying, expanding, and creating recovery-based support services for adults, children, and their families within the communities in which they live
  • Working with local communities to identify and address disparities in behavioral health-related services

Initiatives and Task Forces:

  • Person-First Initiative
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Affirming (LGBTQIA) Task Force
  • Person-First Task Force
Turning Art Into Inspiration

A unique community participatory art initiative is a collaboration between DBHIDS and the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program (MAP) as well as local artists, behavioral health service recipients, community members, providers, local funders and academic partners. Porch Light represents an “out-of-the-box” approach to improve community resilience and wellness, as well as an innovative way for communities to improve their understanding of behavioral health conditions.

The program helps to create murals that focus specifically on mental health and substance use, as well as other issues that affect our mental health including faith and spirituality, homelessness, trauma, immigration, war and community safety and tensions. The program strives to:

  • create positive changes in the community
  • improve the physical environment,
  • create opportunities for social connectedness,
  • develop skills to enhance resilience and recovery,
  • promote community and social inclusion,
  • shed light on challenges faced by those with behavioral health issues,
  • reduce stigma, and
  • encourage empathy.

A Porch Light program manual was created to provide an overview of the program model and its implementation. The manual describes the program’s rationale, phases of implementation, and the participation of various community stakeholders in the cocreation of public murals.

Exploring the Program’s Murals

One of the newest projects is the creation of a virtual Porch Light mural tour to further share the murals and the stories behind them with a broader online audience. The virtual tour is a website (http://porchlightvirtualtour.org/) that provides information about each mural, its theme and artist(s). It also features an interactive map to show where in Philadelphia the murals are displayed.

Assessing the Program

The Yale School of Medicine conducted community-based participatory research in three Porch Light communities to assess the program’s impact on individual and community-level health outcomes. The rigorous evaluation design included a process evaluation including the careful tracking of program activities as well as a longitudinal outcome evaluation including individual interviews, qualitative case studies, community surveys, systematic observations, comparison sites, and archival data. To learn more, download the full report.


A targeted initiative designed to address the impact of health, economic, and educational disparities uniquely experienced by males of color. Its goals are to promote better understanding and awareness of behavioral health challenges, reduce the associated stigma and improve the quality of life for males of color throughout the Philadelphia region.


Community Coalition Initiative was designed to better deliver behavioral health services to targeted communities where there might be significant numbers of vulnerable or at-risk individuals. The program has built partnerships with seven coalitions of community-based organizations (CBOs) and licensed behavioral health providers to help reach community members who can most benefit from these programs, support and treatment services.

In 2005, DBHIDS created a Faith-based initiative to build partnerships with Philadelphia’s places of worship and spiritual leaders in order to reach members in various faith communities. These coalitions provide another way to connect people with substance use disorder, housing issues, or behavioral health or developmental disabilities with needed supports and services.