Symposium Guides Faith-Based and Community Organizations
By Beryl Lieff Benderly
Stressing the importance of "a level playing field," for all groups that want to compete for Federal funding, White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Director James Towey welcomed participants to SAMHSA's 6th Annual Symposium for Faith- and Community-Based Organizations. The Symposium, titled "Bringing Effective Prevention, Treatment, and Mental Health Services to Every Community," was sponsored by SAMHSA in Washington, DC, from August 14 to 17.
The purpose of the symposium was to promote collaboration among government agencies, community organizations, and faith-based groups in addressing substance abuse and mental health. Sessions included instruction on ways to obtain financial support from both public and private sector organizations and highlighted the methods and results of effective faith- and community-based programs for substance abuse prevention and treatment and mental health services.
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Incorporating a Faith Perspective
|From left to right, Charles G. Curie, SAMHSA Administrator; James Towey, Director of the White House Office of Faith- and Community-Based Organizations; and Asa Hutchinson, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, exchange ideas about "what works and why" at the 6th Annual Symposium, "Bringing Effective Prevention, Treatment, and Mental Health Services to Every Community."
© Greg Schaler 2002
Support for President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiative is pervasive throughout Government, Mr. Towey told more than 200 representatives of Government, lay community-based groups, and faith-based organizations of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, American Indians, and others who attended the meeting.
Nonetheless, he said, no organization can receive Federal funds unless it meets accepted standards of separation of church and state. Faith-based groups, for example, must establish separate, nonreligious, nonprofit entities to handle government grants and they must not discriminate on religious grounds or make religious belief or practice a goal or requirement of service.
"If you take Government money, you welcome the person that comes in" regardless of his or her beliefs and you do not 'force religion,' " Mr. Towey said. In awarding grants, the Government does not ask organizations "Do you believe in God?" but rather, "Does your program work?" For this reason, some faith groups do not want Federal funds, and "that's OK," he said, warning that if "religion gets addicted to Government money," it is "bad news."
For faith-based organizations to compete for funding "in the same manner" as other groups, they need detailed information on the process, stated Robert Polito, Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, at the Symposium's general session. Because the initiative should "permeate everything we do," he said, steps are being taken to "literally teach folks how to" negotiate SAMHSA's "sophisticated program" for awarding funding.
"The staff of SAMHSA has been committed for years" to the goals of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative, Mr. Polito continued, and a working group within SAMHSA, the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Workgroup, is active in putting them into effect.
Although "everything we do should have a faith element," Mr. Polito emphasized that there are "no faith-based set-asides." However, he observed, a "disconnect" based on unfamiliarity and bureaucratic complexity has long discouraged faith-based groups from accessing Government funds.
Central to the effort to equip faith-based and community groups to compete, he explained, is the Compassion Capital Fund, which will make available to organizations that need it the expertise of intermediary organizations knowledgeable in Federal procedures. This will help grassroots groups to understand the requirements and create the infrastructure and procedures needed to obtain and manage Government grants. In addition, the Fund will develop research on "what works and why" in faith-based and grassroots organizations and create a National Resource Center to "draw a map" of resources within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help groups find the right offices and application procedures.
[Note: On October 3, 2002, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced awards from the Compassion Capital Fund to 21 intermediary organizations, 4 research groups, and a resource center. For more information and a list of the grantees, visit www.hhs.gov/fbci.]
The opportunity to obtain prevention services, addiction treatment, or mental health services from a faith-based organization needs to be "an option for the clientele. If they desire those programs, they should have them," said Mr. Polito. Secular providers must also be available to those who prefer them, he emphasized.
Eliminating "undue barriers" to participation by faith- and community-based groups is an effort to offer wider options to those SAMHSA ultimately seeks to serve, indicated SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., in remarks at the opening ceremony. "Being relevant to you makes us relevant to the people" receiving services and advances SAMHSA's goal of helping every individual with addiction or mental illness attain "growth, recovery, and inclusion in the community and achieve a quality of life that includes family and friends," he told the organizational representatives.
Faith can make a tremendous contribution toward that goal "when it's integrated into good treatment," stated Asa Hutchinson, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration within the U.S. Department of Justice, in remarks at the opening ceremony. But fighting drug abuse also involves changing drug-infested communities, he said, adding that his agency is currently attempting to do that in several pilot projects conducted in partnership with faith organizations.
Law enforcement is "on the same team" as prevention and treatment workers, Mr. Hutchinson emphasized. Thus it is "important that the voice of enforcement be out there talking about the importance of prevention, the importance of treatment."
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|Robert Polito, Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, answers questions from Symposium participants. © Greg Schaler 2002
Symposium workshops focused on specific issues relevant to treatment and prevention programs and covered topics including accountability, program evaluation, community mobilization, selecting best practices, coalition building, and attracting support from national foundations and other private funders. Some sessions highlighted the work of effective community- and faith-based prevention, treatment, and mental health programs.
A particularly timely discussionin light of the millions of Americans who responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks by turning to their churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques for solace and supportoccurred during a workshop on "Faith-Based and Community Organizational Response to Disasters." Not only in the days immediately after a catastrophe, but in the months and years that follow, faith communities have unique capacities for helping people to find courage and meaning in their suffering. These communities offer ways to cope with post-disaster emotions that can encourage use of addictive substances, according to workshop co-leader John Tuskan, R.N., M.S.N. (Captain, U.S. Public Health Service), of SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services.
Participants from diverse religious perspectives and geographic regions of the country discussed the challenges their organizations could face and the approaches that could help in serving both their own members and their larger local communities in case of a disaster, either natural or man-made. The workshop also focused on SAMHSA's ongoing efforts to develop materials useful to such groups in planning for the possibility of disaster.
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The Tools to Compete
To help level the competition for groups unfamiliar with Federal procedures, the Symposium also offered an extensive array of skill-building workshops that provided information on the sources, requirements, and techniques of competing for, obtaining, and managing Federal grants. Hands-on workshops in the techniques of proposal writing were offered at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. These provided both conceptual information and practical exercises in developing potentially successful proposals. They also familiarized participants with the procedures used to evaluate proposals.
As a continuation of this capacity-building activity, SAMHSA's Grassroots Training Initiative will bring grant-writing training to small faith-based and community groups in more than 40 locations across the Nation through May 2003. The training will be based on a manual, Developing Successful SAMHSA Grant Applications, which will be made available to all training participants later this year.
For a list of training locations and dates, as well as more information on faith-based activities within SAMHSA, visit www.samhsa.gov, click on Faith-Based and Community Programs.
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