Grant aims to pair services in city's most drug-ridden police districts

There are plenty of ser­vices to fight ad­dic­tion and vi­ol­ence in Kens­ing­ton, Port Rich­mond and North Philly. Nav­ig­at­ing that net­work of ser­vices, however, is no easy task.

The com­munit­ies served by the city’s 24th and 25th po­lice dis­tricts are some of the areas in the city most stricken by drug ad­dic­tion and vi­ol­ence.

Last year, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the city’s Of­fice of Ad­dic­tion Ser­vices, a di­vi­sion of the city’s De­part­ment of Be­ha­vi­or­al Health and In­tel­lec­tu­al dis­Ab­il­ity Ser­vices (DB­HIDS), these dis­tricts ac­coun­ted for the highest ra­tio of shoot­ings of any neigh­bor­hoods in the city, the highest rate of death with drugs present — two-thirds high­er than any com­par­able areas city­wide — and a rate of ar­rests for drug sales more than three and a half times high­er than the city­wide av­er­age.

Un­til now, to com­bat these is­sues, a num­ber of loc­al or­gan­iz­a­tions have worked on their own to heal the com­munity in a num­ber of ways — be it through health-care, edu­ca­tion, vi­ol­ence pre­ven­tion or be­ha­vi­or­al health ser­vices.

But, last week, thanks to a grant through the city’s De­part­ment of Be­ha­vi­or­al Health, ser­vice groups that work with­in these po­lice dis­tricts se­cured $240,000 to cre­ate a co­ali­tion that could help co­ordin­ate the ef­forts and im­prove ser­vices.

“The in­tent is to ad­dress the is­sues fa­cing the areas,” said Alex­is Brown, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of Kens­ing­ton’s Com­munity Wo­man’s Edu­ca­tion Pro­ject, one of the mem­ber groups of the newly formed co­ali­tion.

Called “Our Com­munit­ies Con­nect,” the co­ali­tion cur­rently in­cludes Brown’s or­gan­iz­a­tion as well as Aria Health, Best Be­ha­vi­or­al Health­care CA­DEkids — which stands for Chan­ging At­ti­tudes, De­cisions and En­vir­on­ments for kids, and works with chil­dren in pub­lic schools to avoid con­flict and drug ab­use — and Provid­ence Cen­ter.

Dur­ing a com­munity sum­mit held Fri­day, May 6, at CWEP’s of­fices at 2801 Frank­ford Ave., Brown led dis­cus­sions with rep­res­ent­at­ives from a wide ar­ray of ser­vice and com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tions in or­der to find new mem­ber groups and work out the best ways for the new co­ali­tion to sup­port the com­munity.

“We need to work to­geth­er,” she said, not­ing that the eco­nomy has been hard on res­id­ents and non-profits alike.

In or­der to con­tin­ue to provide ser­vices, and to do it in an ef­fect­ive — and reas­on­ably af­ford­able man­ner — sep­ar­ate or­gan­iz­a­tions, she said, need to form new bonds.

“The need is on the rise,” she said. “We need to max­im­ize our en­er­gies … We all are fa­cing budget cuts. But, most of the time, in­di­vidu­als need mul­tiple ser­vices. We need to work to­geth­er.”

Think of it as the city’s 311 sys­tem, she said, only on a smal­ler level.

In­stead of help­ing res­id­ents nav­ig­ate the ser­vices of City Hall, OCC hopes to help res­id­ents in the 24th and 25th po­lice dis­tricts who need health ser­vices, drug ad­dic­tion coun­sel­ing, be­ha­vi­or­al health ser­vices and many oth­er forms of care to find the help they need by con­nect­ing the pro­viders in a way that hadn’t been done pre­vi­ously.

OCC fo­cuses only on areas patrolled by the two po­lice dis­tricts, which in­cludes areas of Felton­ville, Fern Rock, Lo­gan, Frank­ford, Ju­ni­ata Park, parts of North Phil­adelphia east of Broad Street, Kens­ing­ton, Port Rich­mond, Tioga, Hunt­ing Park and Nicetown.

“We are try­ing to home in on what’s here and what’s needed,” Brown said.

For ex­ample, CA­DEkids ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or, Di­anne Reed, said her pro­gram works in classrooms to help stu­dents — the pro­gram works with 15 schools throughout the city, in­clud­ing Kens­ing­ton CAPA — to raise test scores by provid­ing stu­dents with per­son­al be­ha­vi­or­al at­ten­tion.

Of­ten, chil­dren in the tar­geted po­lice dis­tricts are burdened by is­sues out­side of the classroom that can dis­tract them and af­fect their abil­ity in school, said Reed.

“We have a lot of kids who are deal­ing with grief and they bring that to the classroom,” she said. “When we ask kids if they have ever heard gun­shots, every­one in the room will raise their hand and say yes.”

Kamee­lah Mu’Min, as­sist­ant man­ager for the com­munity based ser­vices de­vel­op­ment unit of the DB­HIDS, said that Our Com­munit­ies Con­nect is only one of the co­ali­tions the de­part­ment hopes to help fund throughout Phil­adelphia.

The de­part­ment saw a sim­il­ar pro­gram cre­ated re­cently in South Philly and is still work­ing to es­tab­lish more.

“At this point, com­munity in­volve­ment isn’t just im­port­ant, it’s es­sen­tial,” she said.

Mu’Min said that mem­ber or­gan­iz­a­tions need these con­nec­tions be­cause of­ten they are work­ing hard to provide a ser­vice and it can be tax­ing for each to seek out help from oth­er or­gan­iz­a­tions in or­der to provide people with ad­di­tion­al ser­vices.

Of­ten, she said, loc­als need more help than one or­gan­iz­a­tion can provide, be it over­com­ing drug ad­dic­tion or deal­ing with a men­tal health is­sue.

Res­id­ents need “well­ness and heal­ing” as well, Mu’Min said.

“We know there are pro­viders work­ing in these areas, but, we needed to find a way to provide the funds so that we could pull them all to­geth­er,” said Mu’Min. “We want these groups to con­nect.”

Brown said Our Com­munit­ies Con­nect is still young, but grant fund­ing will help sup­port the pro­gram for a little over two years, al­low­ing the groups the time to work hand in hand and find solu­tions to some of the biggest prob­lems fa­cing these com­munit­ies.

For more in­form­a­tion, vis­it Our Com­munit­ies Con­nect’s web­site at www.ourcom­munit­i­escon­

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­ 

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