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Covering the Opiate Epidemic

Amid the national outcry over an epidemic of opiate addictions and overdoses, and loud new debates over access to, coverage for and efficacy of medical and behavioral treatments, many journalists find themselves covering opiates more than ever before — and trying to develop new ways to pitch stories about substance use disorders. To help journalists and news organizations improve their coverage of all aspects of the current opiate crisis — and take more modern approaches to the age-old stories in substance use — WHYY is organizing a free two-day workshop “Covering the Opiate Epidemic.” The workshop is funded by the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation. WHYY has had a dedicated behavioral health reporter since 2008, and has established itself as a leading newsroom in terms of covering mental health.

The workshop will take place Nov. 18 and 19, at WHYY in Philadelphia, and will feature a range of local and national substance use disorder and mental health policy experts, researchers, as well as award-winning journalists who have covered this epidemic in-depth.

The first day of the workshop, Friday, Nov. 18, provides an immersion into the medical, scientific, political and social issues and trends involved in the opiate epidemic. Speakers include: Roland Lamb, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disability Services; Dr. Leana Wen, Commissioner of Health, Baltimore City; Dr. Carlos Blanco, Director of the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); Joshua D. Lee MD, MSc, Associate Professor in Medicine and Psychiatry; Kathleen Myers, Ph.D, Treatment Research Institute; and Michael A. Ashburn, MD, MPH, MBA.

For further information, call 215-928-2459 during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or email

The Walter P. Lomax, Jr. Speaker Series Presents “Brain Strain II”

Join DBHIDS Commissioner Dr. Arthur Evans as he speaks on the subject “Brain Strain II” at the Franklin Institute.

“Brain Strain II” will help define trauma and how parents can identify if their children are suffering from it; the work that DBHIDS is engaged in around the role that trauma, stress, and exposure to violence has on the behavioral health of our young people; and programs and strategies that have been proven to work

The purpose of this event is to rraise awareness in our community about the physical, mental, and societal impact that trauma plays on how our young people learn, grow, and are socialized, Additionally, a multi-pronged, multi-media examination of the impact of trauma on our young people’s ability to succeed in school and beyond will be investigated, as well as tangible information to parents, caregivers, teachers, and others who care about our young people’s wellbeing

There will be several components of this program that include two 7-10 minute presentations (Dr. Hallam Hurt and Michael O’Bryan) and two 15-20 minute panels: First, a Medical/Behavioral Health Perspective on Trauma (featuring Dr. Evans and Reggie Jones from Bryn Mawr); 2) The Impact of Trauma on Education (Panelists are: Otis Hackney; Pam Grossman, Dean of Penn’s Graduate School of Education; and Rahim Islam, CEO of Universal Charter Schools). This will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Buprenorphine Summit

The upcoming Buprenorphine Summit is targeted to all physicians and behavioral health treatment providers working with in the greater Philadelphia area who are interested in learning about the role of buprenorphine in responding to the opioid epidemic. Topics at the summit will be directly related to buprenorphine and will include the following:  Overview of Philadelphia’s efforts in expanding access to buprenorphine as a medication-assisted treatment option, review of buprenorphine- basic pharmacology, evidence-base for opioid use disorder recovery and best practices in buprenorphine prescribing, and a discussion of effective clinical models incorporating buprenorphine into various treatment settings, including primary care and other medical settings.

Free CMEs are available to physicians who attend the event.

PDF versions of the slides from the Buprenorphine Summit are now available for your review.

New York City Commissions Artists to Paint Murals for Mental Health Awareness

According to Carl Campanile of the New York Post, New York City has announced that it will use a $500,000 grant to hire artists to paint three murals to raise awareness about mental health. The artists will be asked to work with between thirty and forty people from the community who are involved in the numerous mental-health programs based in the city.

“The Health Department is launching its first Mural Arts Project using art as a public-health approach to address mental and behavioral health issues through artistic collaboration,” spokeswoman Carolina Rodriguez, said.

Funded by the state’s Office of Mental Health, the murals will be completed in three different neighborhoods. The proposal for the project cited the success of Philadelphia’s Porch Light Project, a collaborative initiative launched by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. The program sought to transform neighborhoods with art while promoting the health of the community.

Like-Minded Leaders Unite at DNC for Rally to Transform America’s Approach to Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

The nation’s leading mental health and addiction organizations and policymakers come together to present actionable solutions

WHAT: It’s 2016 in America. One in four Americans are affected by a mental health condition. Suicide rates are at an all-time high. Someone dies of an opioid overdose every 19 minutes, and drug overdoses have replaced car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death. Veterans are more in need than ever for help to heal the invisible wounds of war.

Mental health and addiction are two of our nation’s greatest public health challenges, and many are working tirelessly to present ideas and solutions that deliver effective treatment and recovery. But real change won’t happen if we’re not coordinated and like-minded in our approach. That’s why hundreds of people are planning to gather in Philadelphia outside of the Democratic National Convention for the Like-Minded Rally for Mental Health and Substance Use Reform, presented by The Kennedy Forum, The Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation and the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.

We’re coming together to say we’re no longer content with working in today’s fractured environment. It’s not acceptable for this to be someone else’s campaign issue. It’s time to hold our leaders accountable and ensure public policy keeps pace with the science that proves mental health and addiction must be treated the same as any other health condition.

For too long, these issues haven’t had a voice. We’re here to change that. Mental health and addiction issues are voting issues. We are the constituency, and we’re raising our collective voices to demand that delegates and officials at every level adopt some important policy priorities.

WHO: The following will present twelve key priorities for transforming mental health and addiction treatment and share their personal commitment:

  • Patrick Kennedy, Former U.S. Representative (D-RI) and Founder, The Kennedy Forum
  • Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health
  • Donald Norcross, U.S. Representative (D-NJ)
  • Van Jones, President and Co-Founder, Cut 50 and Advisor, Advocates for Opioid Recovery (Invited)
  • Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City (Invited)
  • Joe Pyle, President, Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation
  • Arthur Evans, PhD, Commissioner, City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services
  • Barbara Ricci, Board Member, NAMI and Managing Director, Deutsche Bank
  • Gary Tennis, Pennsylvania Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs

 WHEN: Tuesday, July 26, 2016, 3:30-5 p.m.

WHERE: Dilworth Park, 1 South 15th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102


Meghan Swope

Jeff Valliere




Like-Minded Rally for Mental Health and Substance Use Reform

Calling all Philadelphians, visitors, Democratic National Convention Delegates, and more to gather for the Like-Minded Rally for Mental Health and Substance Use Reform at Dilworth Park in front of City Hall.

Come to hear from speakers from national and local mental health and substance use organizations and learn more about the National Behavioral Health Platform: A Nonpartisan Approach to Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders. There will also be give-a-ways, music, and more.

Register now to guarantee your free t-shirt! By registering you will help us create momentum around mental health and substance use issues at the Democratic National Convention! This event is open to the public.


An Interview with Hannah Van Sciver on ‘Doing Whatever’s Scary!’

After receiving a classical education at the University of Pennsylvania and graduating with a degree in English and a minor in Theater in 2014, Hannah Van Sciver has appeared in productions at Shakespeare in Clark Park, Revolution Shakespeare, and The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre. But along with the classics, she has also done some more contemporary work as an actor, director, and musician, in addition to her own original pieces as a playwright, devisor, and producer.

The Greenfield Collective logo. Design by Sara Outing.

The Greenfield Collective logo. Design by Sara Outing.

Following her success as the creator and star of Marbles in the 2014 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Bicycle Face in Philadelphia’s 2015 SoLow Fest and the Razor’s Edge Solo Performance Festival in New Orleans, and Fifty Days at Iliam in the 2015 Philly Fringe, the multi-talented artist (she’s also a poet and photographer) recently announced the founding of The Greenfield Collective, for which she serves as Artistic Director.

While in preparation for the company’s upcoming show, The Magnus Effect, Hannah sat down with me to discuss the trajectory of her flourishing career and her plans for the future.

Deb: How did The Greenfield Collective originate and what is the meaning of its name?

Hannah Van Sciver. Photo by Jordan Matter.

Hannah Van Sciver. Photo by Jordan Matter.

Hannah: My middle name is Greenfield, and green is also my favorite color, not to mention its associations of sustainability; Collective is because I value a sense of community. Since graduating college in 2014, I’ve found a lot of success making my own work, and I’ve been loving it! This is the next step in formalizing my relationship as a self-producer with a team of frequent collaborators, as well as putting the work we make in conversation with itself. I realized that we’d been having an artistic dialogue together over the past few years, and I wanted to recognize it as such.

Amanda Jill Robinson, Megan Slater, Joseph Ahmed, Hannah Van Sciver, Elizabeth Audley, and Richard Chan in 'Fifty Days at Iliam.' Photo by Dave Sarrafian.

Amanda Jill Robinson, Megan Slater, Joseph Ahmed, Hannah Van Sciver, Elizabeth Audley, and Richard Chan in ‘Fifty Days at Iliam.’ Photo by Dave Sarrafian.

It’s wonderful to be creating inside a community of your own design. I can’t say enough good things about my fellow Collectors Sara Outing, Amanda Jill Robinson, Richard Chan, Mal Cherifi, Elizabeth Audley, and Joseph Ahmed. They’re enormously creative, daring, and kind individuals, and I am learning from them constantly. We also have an extraordinary advisory Board, with Jeremy Berman (Columbia Law), David Kuehn (Cotuit Center for the Arts), and David O’Connor from Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Jacqueline Goldfinger from The Foundry, and Maura Krause from Orbiter 3, who are experienced in working with and developing organizations that focus on emerging theater artists creating new work.

A big part of The Greenfield Collective’s launch effort was a video we did called “I Carry Your Heart,” which is ALL about community engagement and spreading the love. We filmed it over four days, in twelve separate locations across Philadelphia, with 50 of our favorite Philadelphia humans and dogs. Amanda Jill Robinson wrote this gorgeous song, inspired by movement workshops forThe Magnus Effect, using the poetry of e.e. cummings–my very favorite poet; I was sort of relentless in my love for it. Eventually it materialized into this community engagement dance project in public spaces and a kind of love letter to the Philadelphia artistic community, which we premiered at Headlong Performance Institute in April, at our official kick-off party “The Lift-Off.”

What are the benefits you find in creating ensemble-devised pieces, as opposed to writing your own work or acting for other companies in well-known plays by established playwrights?

I get wholly different things from each process. When I first graduated college, I expected to work almost exclusively on plays written by other people at local well-established theatres. Of course, that didn’t happen, and I’m terrible at being bored. David O’Connor, who directed me in The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s Cymbeline–my first professional production–encouraged me to continue my training, to learn different approaches, to keep growing. Since then, I’ve studied with the British American Drama Academy in conjunction with the Yale School of Drama, as well as locally with Pig Iron Theatre Company and the Wilma Theater. Those experiences have inspired in me a desire to create in as many ways as possible. I like to be firing on all cylinders all the time. Everything I do informs everything else I do. The skills I pick up as a devisor make me a better actor and writer, and vice versa.

Why do you think devised work has become such a huge trend in Philadelphia?

That’s a big question. It’s exciting to watch folks embrace new approaches to creating theater. For me, devising is an exciting way to make use of all the parts of my artistic brain. I imagine others must find that appealing as well. But that’s not always possible, or particularly useful for me, when I’m in a traditional rehearsal room. There is a sort of communal electricity that happens for me when I devise with a group of artists–I am very drawn to it. It feels a little like theatrical skydiving. I also think economics must have something to do with it. Devising lends itself well to a DIY approach, which allows underfunded artists to make something much greater than the sum of its parts.

Do you think it will come to define the Philadelphia theater community of our decade and beyond? 

That’s hard to say, but if you follow the money and the direction in which some of the big theaters are going, I think it’s here to stay for a while at least. It’s exciting to watch FringeArts, theaters like The Wilma, and companies like Lightning Rod Special and New Paradise Laboratories gain national attention for their approach. And of course it’s great to watch companies and self-producers like Sam Tower + Ensemble, Almanac, or Team Sunshine, who embrace a more avant-garde methodology, tear it up locally. The pendulum is always swinging. Who knows what else is coming? In the next few years, touring more is a major goal of mine, to see what the response is outside of Philly.

Tell us about the format of The Greenfield’s upcoming work The Magnus Effect. Who’s involved and is it collaboratively created? 

The script itself is set up a bit like Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, but with a twist. It toggles between weekly meetings with a group of strangers attempting to overcome their fear of flying. However, as I began writing, I wondered what it would look like to watch those people dance. And so, there is a lot of interstitial movement between scenes; I call them “anxiety ballets.”  The hope is that they create a sense of magic, and provide an alternate way into understanding these beautifully complex people.

I’m the lead artist and playwright, David O’Connor is directing, Sara Outing is the lead designer, and my sister Sarah Van Sciver is writing the music. Amanda Jill Robinson is serving as music director, and Joseph Ahmed is helping with the choreography. The cast includes myself, Amanda, Richard Chan, Zoe Richards, and David Pica. We have a combination of collaborators old and new, and so I think this will be a fruitful mix.

Community engagement is a big part of our mission with The Greenfield Collective, and so with this piece we’re also featuring a multidisciplinary artist each night in a pre-show performance; we’re asking them to bring work inspired by the theme of anxiety. Already signed on are Bi Jean Ngo, Mal Cherifi, and Elizabeth Audley. In addition, we reached out to the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, and they will be distributing resources to our audience pre- and post-show. Lastly, we’re providing free tickets to student theater-makers through Philadelphia Young Playwrights.

What inspired the theme? 

4.Richard Chan, Zoe Richards, Amanda Jill Robinson, David Pica, and Hannah Van Sciver in a promotional image for The Magnus Effect. Photo by Dave Sarrafian.

Richard Chan, Zoe Richards, Amanda Jill Robinson, David Pica, and Hannah Van Sciver in a promotional image for The Magnus Effect. Photo by Dave Sarrafian.

Well, I think all actresses under 30 must have anxiety. Actually, scratch that; probably all theater folks of all ages. And I think people in the arts in general often suffer from imposter syndrome–I certainly do. Claiming creative space is hard! I wish we talked about it more.

I’ve always wanted to create a piece about anxiety, and conveniently, within the last five years I’ve developed a real fear of flying onboard airplanes. What’s great dramaturgically about the fear of flying is that there is such a plethora of reasons for it: claustrophobia, motion sickness, germophobia, fear of losing control, to name a few. Plus airplanes are such symbols of modernity and technology. It allows me to write really specifically about something that’s pretty universal.

What do you hope to accomplish with the show? 

I want the audience to identify both with the characters and the conversation being had. We all have things we fear deeply, and sharing them is terribly difficult, let alone facing them head on. I hope the show presents a compassionate portrait of what it looks like to engage with your fears, as well as the complexities behind the impulse to help others.

Also, we’re producing this show without the context of either the SoLow Festival or the Fringe. And so I hope to solidify our audience base further! In many ways, this feels like such a big plunge into the unknown. I hope people come to the production, and feel as excited about what we’re doing as we do.

What’s your first creative memory? 

In pre-school, we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and we were given five little construction paper rounds to glue together into our own caterpillars. All the other kids stopped at five, but I believe I continued until about 30. My mother had my massive and unwieldy caterpillar framed; it lives in the kitchen to this day. It reminds me that I’ve always had the impulse to reject artistic boundaries.

What other projects do you have coming up over the summer and beyond?

Before The Magnus Effect, I’ll be doing Bad Hamlet, a co-production with Lesley Berkowitz and Joseph Ahmed, with the GC involved as well. In September, I’ll be performing in King John with Revolution Shakespeare for the Fringe, before taking Bicycle Face to the United Solo Festival in New York City on October 14, thanks to Jackie Goldfinger pointing me there. This winter, I’ll be performing in Sleeping Beauty: A Musical Panto at People’s Light; choreographer Samantha Reading encouraged me to audition for it, after she directed me in Rev Shakes’ Love’s Labour’s Lost in last year’s Fringe. And I’m in the midst of developing two other ongoing projects: one calledTilda Swinton Adopt Me Please with Nicholas Scheppard; and another, called The Importance of Being Wilde, with Brenna Geffers and Ross Beschler, which we worked on this summer on Cape Cod.

Where do you see yourself professionally ten years from now? 

I hope I’m still learning new things, and doing whatever’s scary. When you’re terrified, I think it’s generally a good sign that your work is important.
My ideal season will probably always be one classical work, one contemporary play, and something I make myself, so I hope I’m getting to work on a variety of projects. I hope I’m creating opportunities for others, too, and that I continue to be blessed with outstanding collaborators. And, goodness, I also hope I’m traveling, doing more work nationally and internationally, experiencing how my work is received outside of Philadelphia–though, I want this to remain my home base. I appreciate immensely, and cannot emphasize enough, what a supportive, talented, and close-knit community we have here.

Thanks, Hannah, for sharing your thoughts and introducing us to The Greenfield Collective and its upcoming work! 

The Magnus Effect plays July 14-17 and 21-24, 2016, at The Greenfield Collective, performing at Vox Populi Gallery – 319 North 11th Street, 3rd floor, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, purchase them online.

Story Telling Training — For July 2016 CPS Applicants Only

Story Telling Training (STT) is a FREE recovery-and-resilience-based Training. It recognizes that the stories of each individual, the recovery (wellness) process and the experiences of our loved ones are a vital part of strengthening System’s Transformation. This training offers many helpful tools which encourages the sharing of personal and challenging experiences with others, to help inspire and motivate them to do the same. It also provides vast opportunities to network and share resources. Story Telling Training is a positive gateway for those who wish to help others through their own life experiences – through the Behavioral Health System, as well as with families and communities.

This training session is designed for participants in the July 2016 Certified Peer Specialist training, which is scheduled to take place July 6-27. For additional information and location for this training, please follow the registration link below.

Penn Study Finds Drawbacks to Cost-Saving Measures in Public Mental Health Clinics

We would like to call your attention to recent research on the impact of staffing models on the delivery of behavioral health services. The study, conducted by partners at the University of Pennsylvania, Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research, is one of the first to investigate the relation between independent contractor employment status and service quality, specifically attitudes and knowledge of Evidence-based Practices (EBPs). They found that independent contractors had less knowledge and more negative attitudes about the use of EBPs. In qualitative interviews, agency leadership indicated that there is less investment in training and professional development for contract employees due to concerns about turnover and contract employees’ reluctance to engage in non-billable activities.

While the research stops short of finding that the use of independent contractors results in lower quality of care, this is an area of significant concern for our system. We understand that providers are turning to this staffing model to address financial challenges; however, there are important clinical implications of this staffing model. Independent contractors, including non-licensed clinicians, are not afforded professional development, training, supervision and support to ensure the delivery of quality services.

This staffing model also impacts workforce turnover, stability and continuity of care for service recipients. As a system, our priority is effective and efficient service delivery, which includes incorporating evidence-based practices.

As you know, we have been discussing staffing models for quite some time and this study serves to reinforce this important point. We need to identify strategies to support the development of a highly skilled workforce and address this staffing trend. To that end, we will be taking a number of steps to address this issue, such as:

  • Looking to address financial challenges and concerns related to staffing
  • Engaging you, and other provider agencies, to solicit additional input and recommendations
  • Including expectations that all staff receive supervision and professional development throughout all of our policies

To learn more about the study, please take a look at a recent media article in the Philly Voice. Additionally, we encourage you to learn more about DBHIDS’ Evidence-based Practice and Innovation Center to better understand how we aim to work with you to further promote the delivery of behavioral health evidence-based practices throughout Philadelphia.

Family Member Storytelling Training

Story Telling Training (STT) is a FREE recovery-and-resilience-based Training. It recognizes that the stories of each individual, the recovery (wellness) process and the experiences of our loved ones are a vital part of strengthening System’s Transformation. This training offers many helpful tools which encourages the sharing of personal and challenging experiences with others, to help inspire and motivate them to do the same. It also provides vast opportunities to network and share resources. Story Telling Training is a positive gateway for those who wish to help others through their own life experiences – through the Behavioral Health System, as well as with families and communities.

There are (2) FREE Story Telling Trainings available for everyone to take (age 18 and over) to learn tools on how to tell your own personal story effectively, learn more about the personal and challenging experiences of others, while learning about the Behavioral Health System Transformation.