Letter from the Executive Director

[Letter from the Executive Director]

Dear Reader:

Welcome to the inaugural issue of the newsletter of the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (MHAPA). This quarterly email offers updates from MHAPA programs and initiatives and news about the mental health community in Pennsylvania.

To your inbox every few months, we will bring stories of people and programs serving Pennsylvanians, as well as information from MHAPA’s Children’s News [link to CN site], our OpenMindsOpenDoors (OMOD) [link to OMOD site] anti-stigma campaign, and MHAPA affiliates [link to http://www.mhapa.org/affiliates.htm] across the state.

MHAPA works on behalf of the mental health of the citizens of Pennsylvania, instilling principles that facilitate recover and resiliency of individuals and their families through advocacy, education, and public policy. In addition to the action alerts we send out when your voice is critical, this newsletter will serve as a tool to keep you informed about key legislation and events affecting Pennsylvania mental health consumers, providers, and families.

With this issue, we bring you:

·  An overview [link to page with Sue’s article on Budget] of the PA 2010-2011 state budget, passed on time a few weeks ago, as it pertains to mental health services.

·  Beautiful artwork [link to steve shaw and tricia interview] created by artists who are part of the Magnificent Minds Project [link to MMP story], a Harrisburg non-profit that highlights the contributions of artists who live with mental illness.

·  Information about OMOD’s Certified Peer Specialist [link to OMOD section of newsletter] resources section on the campaign’s website.

·  A list [link to CN update] from PA Children’s News of Pennsylvania schools implementing Positive Behavioral Supports, a research-based approach that responds to negative behaviors in children in supportive rather than punitive ways.

·  And more.

We also want to hear from you. Let us know what you are doing to affect change for people living with mental illness. Email us at , with information about events in your region and programs that work against stigma and discrimination and for the rights of mental health consumers.


Sue Walther

Executive Director


[Feature 1- Budget update]

Bad News, Good News, Bad News: An 2010-2011 Budget Overview

First the bad news. As everyone knows, Pennsylvania faces extreme economic challenges. As a result, the recently released FY 2010-2011 budget contains many reductions, and the state mental health appropriations budget reflects cuts from the FY 2009-2010 budget totaling more than $35 million.

Now for the good news. The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) [link to http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/about/OMHSAS/ ] has been able to generate more federal revenue than anticipated so the base cut has been mitigated and counties will not see an overall reduction to their 90% base allocation. In addition, OMHSAS had proposed a $5 million forensic cost containment, which it will absorb rather than pass on to individual counties. (See OMHSAS Budget Highlights below.)

Back to the bad news. While we are grateful that OMHSAS is able to generate additional federal dollars to mitigate the impact of significant state allocation cuts, the budget still reflects a decrease in the state’s dollar commitment to the mental health system and will negatively impact the state base allocation for years to come. In addition, the budget includes a $2.1 million reduction to the Behavioral Health Services Initiative (BHSI). This greatly impacts the availability of behavioral health services for those individuals who do not qualify for medical assistance but have significant behavioral health needs.

And finally, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room – the hoped for six month extension of the enhanced federal matching rate provided under the federal stimulus program. The final 2010-2011 state budget is based on Pennsylvania receiving the enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/fmap.htm match to the tune of $850 million. Without it, drastic cuts in services loom on the immediate horizon. And no one knows when Congress will decide whether or not to extend FMAP. In the meantime, critical programs and jobs remain in limbo.

OMHSAS Budget Highlights

On July 15, Sherry Snyder, Acting Deputy Secretary of OMHSAS, provided a detailed briefing of the OMHSAS budget. Below are the highlights. Click here [link to attached PPT] for a more detailed overview.

OMHSAS Community Mental Health Budget Highlights

Community Mental Health Services Base Allocation

§  $705.314 M

o  Restores the FY 2009-10 midyear cut

o  Reduction in State appropriation offset by Federal revenue

o  Proposed $5M Forensic Initiative absorbed - OMHSAS will work with Counties to enhance alternatives

o  Net result is no reduction to 90% Base allocation

o  FY 2009-10 Community Hospital Integration Projects Program (CHIPPs) are annualized at $5.7M for the 60 CHIPPs at Allentown State Hospital (ASH)

o  39 additional CHIPPs to support the closure of ASH($3.7M)

o  $1.82M to ODP for waiver program to discharge 13 persons from state hospitals to the community (10 will be from ASH)

o  Six-month funding for 30 CHIPPs at Norristown State Hospital ($1.65M)

o  Budget does not include a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)

BHSI/Act 152

§  The BHSI Initiative is reduced by 3.8%, or $2.1 million, to $53.2M.

§  OMHSAS will apply the reduction equally to the mental health and drug and alcohol portions which are 40% Mental Health and 60% Drug and Alcohol.

§  Funding for Act 152 remains unchanged at $16.2 million.

[feature 2]

The Magnificence of an Artist’s Mind

Syngred Bridell grew up in an artistic household, with parents whose paint canvases were outlets for creative expression and therapeutic tools for dealing with the effects of mental illness. Her mother struggled with depression; her father, a veteran of the Vietnam War, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Witness to their ongoing experiences with recovery, Syngred has always keenly understood how important the process of creating art can be for individuals living with mental illness.

For the past 15 years, Syngred, who holds an MSW from Temple University, has worked as a Crisis Case Worker at Dauphin County Crisis Intervention. Throughout her professional career she’s drawn on the artistic experiences of her parents when working with clients, and has long dreamt of starting a program that would offer artists living with mental illness opportunities to share their work with the world. After recently being named a Center for Progressive Leadership’s Pennsylvania Political Leaders Fellow [link to http://s216300718.onlinehome.us/fellows/pennsylvania09.php], she knew it was time to realize this dream.

“I’ve always believed that individuals are powerful agents for change,” says Syngred. “And I have been fortunate to be part of organizations – as a student at Temple and a part of the Center for Progressive Leadership -- that encourage action and community involvement.”

Last summer, Syngred, who is also an artist and clothing designer, founded the Magnificent Minds Project [link to http://www.magnificentmindsproject.com/], a Harrisburg non-profit that celebrates the immense creativity, ingenuity, and artistic brilliance that exist within individuals who have mental illness.

“Our goal is to eradicate stigma against mental illness by sharing with the world the amazing -- and unique -- contributions people with mental illness make to our lives and communities,” she says.

Magnificent Minds invites artists to show their work in exhibitions organized by the project and hosted by local art galleries. The galleries donate their space, and Magnificent Minds funds the purchase of art supplies the artists may need to create pieces for display in the show. One hundred percent of any proceeds from sales during the exhibition go directly to the artist.

[Tk quote from gallery]

To begin building Magnificent Minds, Syngred leveraged her contacts in the mental health community to raise awareness of the program. She met with caseworkers and other providers and asked them to encourage their clients to send in art – or create something new. “We were overwhelmed by the response,” she says. “And today, word of mouth has taken on a life of its own.”

Harrisburg’s Gallery Blu [http://www.galleryblu.org/home] hosted the first exhibition in January 2010. The show was an “outrageous success,” with more than 30 artists participating. This summer, the Art Association of Harrisburg [http://www.artassocofhbg.com/index2.htm /] hosts the second Magnificent Minds Project exhibition at The Reservoir Park Mansion.


Read about Steven Shaw and Patricia Hutchins [link to article below entitled Steve and Patricia: Words and Art.], two Magnificent Minds artists exhibiting in both exhibitions.

Syngred recently resigned from her full-time job to focus exclusively on Magnificent Minds. She plans to offer more exhibitions each year, reach out to new artists and organizations, and include other art forms, such as the performing arts. She will also continue to work closely with all of the committed volunteers who provide supplies, time, and professional services, serving as the backbone to the project.

“People are so eager to help,” she says. “We are building a tremendous community among artists, providers of mental health services, and businesses. As program budgets everywhere are being cut and mental health services threatened, Magnificent Minds offers a no cost therapeutic outlet that individuals and organizations can seek for added support.”

For more information about the Magnificent Minds Project visit the website [link to http://www.magnificentmindsproject.com/?page_id=289]. Don't miss the Magnificent Minds Project Art Exhibition at The Reservoir Park Mansion [link to exhibition page http://www.magnificentmindsproject.com/?page_id=289], on view until August 30, 2010.

Steve and Tricia: In Words and Art

Patricia Hutchins and Steve Shaw are a true renaissance couple. Both visual artist working in multiple media, they are also scholars, poets, parents, musicians, and travelers. Tricia, as she’s know to friends, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in French, an associate's degree in Culinary Arts, and many credits in fine arts. She currently works at the East Shore Area Library of the Dauphin County Library System.

Steve, who holds a Master of Library Science degree, is the retired Director of Administrative Rules for the state of New Hampshire. He hails from New York City and has lived in Prague and Cambridge, England, as well as throughout New England.

The two kindred spirits, recently transplanted to Harrisburg from New Hampshire, are also exhibiting artists with the Magnificent Minds Project [link to article about MM]. Steve has bipolar disorder and Patricia Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, and Depression. For both, creating art is a healing process and helps them find new ways of approaching and managing daily life.

“Part of my definition of depression is that you can’t see,” says Steve, who writes and paints daily. “Art and creativity helps you get through that really down time, when everything looks bleak. Creating art is thinking about space and breaking through barriers and challenges. The process is directly transferrable to everyday life.”

Adds Tricia, “To then have our work, which was sometimes made during very challenging times, validated by the public is incredibly rewarding and uplifting.”

Below is a gallery of Steve’s and Tricia’s recent works, all part of Magnificent Minds exhibitions, with artist statements about each.

[Jeff: Below are text boxes where images should go. The images are attached to the email and should accompany the captions. I’m fine having the captions as part of the page or a separate link.]


What Picasso Left Out [link to page with the following copy:]

As is well known, Picasso had a “Blue Period.” He also painted guitar players many times. But he never painted blues guitarists, such as those who arose in the Mississippi Delta in the 20’s and 30’s. This scroll, full of blue colors and blues music, tries to remedy this. It tries to capture what Picasso left out.

At the left end of this blues scroll, Picasso stands with his hands raised. From his head shoot plastic forms which take amoeba shapes (the word plastic has two contrary meanings: “fixed and hard,” and “soft and pliable”—it is the second meaning intended here). From the fingers of his painting hand a rainbow of flows, which is not multi-colored, being composed only of shades of blue. Below the arch of the blue rainbow is an African mask. African masks were a huge influence on Picasso’s art.

At the end of the rainbow, there is a pair of black feet surrounded by gold. The feet are those of a weaver, since many African fabrics were woven on looms operated solely by foot power. Above the feet, cubist forms, such as those in a Picasso painting, emerge from a composite of shapes drawn from the twin-circle shapes found in eyeglasses and guitars. A worm, representing basic life forms unseen under the soil, leads us to a large yellow guitar decorated with apostrophes, since American blues’re yet to come (in the way letters are left out of a contracted word).

The golden guitar leads to a scene of African men fishing. The fishermen’s boat shapeshifts into two forms: the mast becomes a boabab tree and the bow becomes a guitar. The boabab tree is believed to grow upside down in African lore, so here it is a symbol of tradition turned upside down, as it will be when blues music evolves from the hardships of slavery. The boat now turns into a slave ship, containing a cramped man with a broken-necked guitar. Above him are two portraits, one of a Pharaoh (Memphis, a blues center, has an Egyptian name) and one of G. Belzoni, an early explorer of the pyramids, for whom Belzoni, Mississippi is named. Belzoni is often mentioned in the blues of Charlie Patton, the “father” of the delta blues guitar style, also known as “the Masked Marvel,” since his earliest recordings were anonymous (note the mask with the guitar neck, a turnaround from the broken guitar in the slave ship).

Tears are shed for all the suffering slavery brought to the Mississippi Delta. The tears turn into fertile Mississippi River flood waters, on which a harp guitar floats. The amoeboid forms we first saw above Picasso’s head return, but now they are creative life forms in flowing Blues waters. The river forms a guitar with “f” holes and deposits a free-form amoeba guitar on the shore, as if it were drift-wood. All this implies that the African fishermen we saw earlier will become musicians in the new land where the slavers have brought them. All this goes on behind the wallpaper of a plantation house, unseen by the plantation owners.