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In a statement from Jody Levison-Johnson, president and CEO of Social Current, a network of more than 1,800 social sector organizations, she commented on the recent shootings in communities across our nation:

“Highland Park. Tulsa. Uvalde. Laguna Woods. Buffalo. These senseless tragedies have robbed our nation of too many precious lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 100 people die in the U.S. every day from gun violence. There have been 27 school shootings just this year and 102 mass shootings since Uvalde. What is clear is that gun violence in America is an urgent public health issue across our nation and we must do more to address the underlying conditions that lead to these tragedies. In short, we must do better.

As a network of more than 1,800 social sector organizations, our mission is to advocate for and implement equitable solutions to society’s toughest challenges through collaboration, innovation, policy, and practice excellence. We believe that community-based organizations, supported by public policy and adequate funding, have the tools to help reduce incidents of gun violence. While it is up to our nation’s leaders to pass common sense gun laws that can reduce the accessibility of weapons of war, there are also community-based and federal public policy initiatives that we believe can reduce the epidemic of gun violence in our nation and prevent future tragedies. These include:

  1. Development of community-based violence intervention efforts that can reduce the cycle of community gun violence, address the underlying causes of gun violence, and promote health equity.
  2. Expansion of positive youth development programs, and other prevention models supported by evidence.
  3. Increased federal funding for research on gun violence.
  4. Advance trauma-informed and brain science-aligned principles in policy, including the RISE from Trauma Act.
  5. Expansion of place-based initiatives that use holistic approaches to community impact/development to create safe and vibrant neighborhoods and make employment opportunities, affordable housing, and other basic needs a reality across the nation.
  6. Address the youth mental health crisis by advocating for prevention programs; supporting the Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2020; and providing more funding to school and community-based mental health programs that build awareness of trauma, train appropriate staff to identify and screen for behavioral health challenges, and incorporate positive behavioral health interventions, family engagement, and treatment.

Reducing gun violence and the horror of mass shootings will require a robust public health response that emphasizes proactive, preventative strategies that build community resilience and well-being. We have the tools at hand to strengthen communities and reduce these senseless deaths. We call on Congress and our nation’s leaders to meet this moment with the political will to change the status quo and pass common sense policies that reduce the epidemic of gun violence and support the ability of every individual, family, and community to thrive.”

View this compilation of resources for tools and guides related to talking to children about shootings, providing psychological first aid, coping with grief, and more.

Note: Revisions have been made to this statement since it was originally published on June 1, 2022.

To mark the beginning of National Mental Health Awareness Month this May, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra reinforced the Biden administration’s commitment to expanding access to mental and behavioral health care. To spotlight the issue in recent months, Secretary Becerra announced the allocation of $35 million for community mental health services for children and young adults and $105 million for the 988 crisis care infrastructure, both funded through the American Rescue Plan.

In the State of the Union Address earlier this year, President Biden outlined his plan to address the national mental health crisis. This plan includes increasing the number of behavioral health professionals, incorporating mental health and substance use treatment into primary care, proliferating virtual care, and protecting the mental health of children. In a promising step forward last week, Sens. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced the Mental Health Reform Reauthorization Act of 2022, which would provide funds to states to enforce existing mental health parity laws, expand SAMHSA’s Minority Fellowship Program, and increase funds for the Mental Health Services Block Grant, among other things. Though still far from passage, this bipartisan bill would make major headway toward addressing the national mental health crisis. 

In other news, almost 200 organizations, including many in the Social Current Network, joined a sign-on letter to send a strong message to the Hill in support of $468 million for the Full-Service Community Schools program for FY 2023! Please keep an eye out for more advocacy opportunities for FY 2023 in the coming weeks as Congress advances its appropriations discussions.

SNAP Recipients Now Automatically Eligible for Head Start

Dr. Bernadine Futrell, director of the Office of Head Start, announced that families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will now be automatically eligible for Head Start. Before, many families that were eligible for SNAP were also eligible for Head Start; however, they had to provide proof of income to both programs, which was a burden on families and program administrators. Now, families will only have to prove eligibility for SNAP in order to enroll in Head Start. Futrell stated that this change reflects the aims of President Biden’s Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government from December 2021. The Office of Head Start has provided resources to help families and Head Start operators understand the recent policy change.

Rural Partners Network Takes Shape

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice announced the creation of the Rural Partners Network (RPN), a whole-of-government initiative with the goal of providing economic and infrastructure support to rural areas. The announcement was part of President Biden’s Building a Better America Rural Infrastructure Tour, which has featured dozens of presidential trips to rural communities. The RPN will launch in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Arizona, and will hear and learn from rural communities about their policy needs. A Rural Prosperity Interagency Council, made up of 16 federal agencies and regional commissions, will incorporate rural voices into the policymaking process. The administration plans to expand the program into additional states later this year, including Nevada, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Alaska.

New SNAP Guidance for Childless Adults

The Federal Nutrition Service released guidance on how to determine whether an individual can receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits if they voluntarily quit a job over insufficient COVID-19 safety measures. In general, individuals ages 16-59 must fulfill certain work requirements to receive SNAP benefits; however, they can quit voluntarily or reduce their work hours and continue to participate in SNAP, if they have good cause. The newly released guidance provides state agencies with resources on how to determine if working conditions meet certain requirements for COVID-19 safety. Individuals can also cite these resources to SNAP administrators if they wish to continue receiving benefits after leaving a job due to insufficient COVID-19 safety measures.

The Social Current Knowledge and Insights Center, our comprehensive online resource library, is currently running trials around two equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) related databases, and our library team is looking for your feedback. Once you enter the databases we want to know, is the content you’re finding in each database useful? What do you like/dislike about the content interface? Did you find what you were looking for? What’s missing?

Reach out to the library team with your thoughts on the two databases by Jan. 31.

About the Databases

The first database is the Ethnic Diversity Source and covers the culture, traditions, social treatment, and lived experiences of different ethnic groups in America. It provides full texts from a growing list of sources including peer-reviewed journals, magazines, e-books, biographies, and primary source documents. Recent titles include:

  • Immigrant Generation, Race, and Socioeconomic Outcomes of Mothers in Urban Cities: Who Fares Better?
  • Eroding White Supremacy: A Curricular and Humanist Approach to Bridging the Racial Reality Gap
  • “Leaving the World Better Than We Saw It:” Imperatives for General and Special Educators

The second database is the eBook Subscription Diversity & Ethnic Studies (EBSCOhost), an e-book collection that includes thousands of high-quality e-books assessed by librarians on the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Example titles include:

  • Eliminating Race-Based Mental Health Disparities: Promoting Equity and Culturally Responsive Care Across Settings
  • Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit
  • Bodies and Barriers: Queer Activists on Health

Accessing the Databases

Staff from organizations that have enrolled in Social Current’s engagement packages should log into the Knowledge and Insights Center using their learning community account. Need help creating or accessing an existing account? Contact the learning community team.

Once logged in, you will be taken to the Social Current Library landing page and should follow the instructions below:

  • Click “Access the Library”
  • Scroll down and click “Choose Databases” above the search bar
  • Choose “Ethnic Diversity Source” and “eBook Subscription Diversity & Ethnic Studies (EBSCOhost)” only
  • Enter any search word (For example: Equity)
  • Hit “Search” and begin exploring

Note: The Knowledge and Insights Center is only available to staff enrolled in Social Current’s Engagement Packages. To learn more about our engagement packages, join us on Jan. 21 for our informational webinar.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ Change in Mind Institute announced today the 10 sites selected for its Texas Learning Collaborative on applying brain science. The Texas sites selected include: the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans, the Austin Public Education Foundation, Bastrop County Cares, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, the Children’s Museum Houston, Family Service Center of Galveston County, Fort Bend County, New Hope Housing, Inc., Santa Maria Hostel, Inc. and the Texas Center for Child and Family Studies.

The Change in Mind Institute received more than $727,000 each from both the Powell Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation for the new initiative, which will launch next month.

Through their engagement in the Change in Mind learning collaborative experience, participating organizations will determine their own paths for creating the transformation best suited to their unique needs. The process of embedding brain science principles will lead to improved outcomes for children and families. In addition, it will further enhance their organizational cultures and leadership ability to work collaboratively with partners to build better service systems and policies.

“We are thrilled to lead this collaborative learning process in partnership with these 10 sites,” says Jody Levison-Johnson, president and CEO of the newly merged Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and Council on Accreditation. “As we’ve seen with our previous learning collaborative, understanding and embedding the core story of brain development can have a profound positive impact on an organization’s internal operations as well as its work to build resilience in children and families.”

“Supporting early childhood brain development is a key part of the Episcopal Health Foundation’s strategic plan to improve health, not just healthcare in Texas,” noted Elena Marks, president and CEO of Episcopal Health Foundation. “In 2020, EHF invested more than $3 million in similar early brain-building projects and programs across the state and we are honored to support this ground-breaking initiative to expand on that work.”

“The Powell Foundation is focused on ensuring that children enter school with a strong foundation of skills that will jump start their success and benefit them throughout their education, career, and lifetime,” says Nicole Tritter Ellis, Powell Foundation Program Officer. “We know that supporting the systems that foster healthy environments for children’s development and education is key to building these skills, which is why we are pleased to support Alliance’s Texas Change in Mind Learning Collaborative.”

About the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and Council on Accreditation (COA)
The merging Alliance and COA and resulting new organization will convene and catalyze a dynamic, inclusive, multifaceted network of human/social services organizations that leverages the collective experience of the field and research to spark a current in the sector and drive continuous evolution and improvement. Our goal is to activate the power of the social sector and create a unified, intrepid, just, and purposeful network that propels our field forward so all people can thrive. The new organization will provide a range of offerings and learnings to actively shape the future of the sector through policy, advocacy, knowledge exchange, certification, accreditation, connection, and ongoing iterative and reflective interactions. The Change in Mind Institute is a program of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.

About the Episcopal Health Foundation
By providing millions of dollars in grants, working with congregations and community partners, and providing important research, the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF)  supports solutions that address the underlying causes of poor health in Texas. EHF is based in Houston, has more than $1 billion in estimated assets, and operates as a supporting organization of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. #HealthNotJustHealthcare

About the Powell Foundation
The Powell Foundation is a private, family foundation based in Houston, Texas and focused on improving the lives of Harris, Travis and Walker County residents. The Foundation seeks to foster community wellbeing by empowering children, families, and individuals with the conditions, supports and skills necessary to thrive. It is particularly focused on ensuring that children achieve college and career readiness by supporting the entire education continuum, from early childhood development through post-secondary education completion. Visit powellfoundation.org for more information.