Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Bethesda Project

Name of Innovative Program: 
Connecting Mental Health Care to the Homeless
Sponsoring Organization
Bethesda Project
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Miranda Barthmus
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
Bethesda Beacon initiative focuses on ensuring that the most vulnerable and chronically homeless population living on the streets of Philadelphia are housed. With this new initiative comes the need for a greater understanding of mental illness among our staff, and resources to ensure our residents are receiving access to mental health care. This project will address the specific needs of the population by focusing on mental illness as a root cause of homelessness.We will utilize a multi-faceted approach to increase access to mental health services for our residents, which includes:
  • increased training for staff to ensure they have a firm understanding of each  individual's diagnosis, medications prescribed, and how to intervene during a mental health crisis
  •  conducting a survey of Bethesda Project's mental health services, which will be leveraged to help strengthen our connection to service providers
  •  providing residents with access to mental health screenings and services
Creativity and Innovation: 
This project is innovative as it identifies mental illness as a serious factor leading to homelessness and seeks to provide individuals with mental health care as a means to end chronic street homelessness. Bethesda Project recognizes that many factors lead to homelessness but that the root cause must be addressed before other factors. By providing behavioral health care to our residents and training key program staff to recognize issues pertaining to mental illness, we are not just treating the symptoms of homelessness but also the cause.
For more than thirty years, Bethesda Project has been a lead service provider among to homeless men and women in Philadelphia.  Bethesda Project provides emergency shelter, affordable housing, and supportive services for more than 2,500 homeless and formerly homeless men and women in Philadelphia each year.  Acknowledging that the needs of homeless and formerly homeless individuals vary from person to person, Bethesda Project operates a “continuum of care” consisting of entry-level programs, shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and independent housing. Bethesda Project shelter guests and housing residents receive individualized care.  Staff works one-on-one with men and women to help them set personal goals and achieve the most independent level of housing possible. 
Bethesda Project is committed to increasing the mental health services available to residents and to continue to identify individuals living on the street who are in need of shelter and mental health care. By working as a part of a collaborative consisting of other service providers in Philadelphia, Bethesda Project has been able to identify those who are most in need of our services. We will continue to carry out our core mission and our focus on the Bethesda Beacon. Through our shelters and our winter drop-in center, we will work with guests to ensure they receive the care that they need to help them obtain and to keep housing.
Bethesda Project will create training modules, which other service providers can use to train staff. This model can be replicated by other organizations who struggle with the complexities of the mental health care system and will provide a guide for other organizations to work with the homeless population. The project can be implemented in any city, as the complexity of mental illness as a cause of homelessness is a nationwide issue. Bethesda Project will also use this project as a collaborative effort to connect services to those who need them and to engage other organizations in the process.
By providing increased levels of training to our key staff members, assessing our current strategies, and strengthening our connections with other service providers, we will achieve a higher understanding of the needs of our residents. We will see a decrease in the number of emergency hospital visits due to mental health crises; residents will have a better understanding of their diagnosis and how to properly take medications; and we will see a higher rate of vulnerable individuals commit to housing once they have received the care they need.