Young people face challenges as they approach adulthood and independence, but those who have mental health issues and economic hardship encounter additional obstacles. To support these youth and their families, SAMHSA developed Systems of Care grants, under the Children’s Mental Health Initiative, which use a wraparound approach to develop community-based interventions to work in tandem with treatment services. This approach includes other supportive people – such as family members, caregivers, teachers, mentors, and coaches – as part of the care team. The services they provide may include case management, vocational training, evidence-based therapeutic services, respite services, crisis intervention, family and peer support, and life skill development (including tutoring, or financial planning). Coordination of a wide array of services has been shown to enhance recovery outcomes.

Building on the wraparound approach, System of Care grantees are incorporating a model called The Open Table. This model taps into the resources of faith-based community organizations to address the barriers that keep people from achieving employment, a livable wage, and life stability – issues that many young adults and families, including those supported by the Systems of Care grant program, often face.

SAMHSA embraced The Open Table model in an effort to expand public-private partnerships and engage faith-based community organizations in delivering services to the larger community. This team approach provides mentorship, support, and friendship, while providing coordinated care – similar to the wraparound approach in Systems of Care.

To date, the System of Care grantees that have integrated this model include the Chatauqua Tapestry Expansion Initiative, Saginaw Max System of Care, Wraparound Orange, Bringing Systems of Care to Scale, and HELPing BC-SCORES. Project directors for these programs have reported life-changing experiences for all participants because of the relationships and natural supports that develop over time.

“Having service come through faith-based community organizations, as a coordinated network, is incredibly helpful. The volunteers care deeply about helping,” says Gary Blau, Chief, Child, Adolescent and Family Branch at SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. “Systems of Care grantees immediately saw this model as a natural extension of their work and as a powerful tool to provide continued support.”

Systems of Care Values and Principles

  • Family Driven
  • Youth Guided
  • Culturally and Linguistically Competent
  • Evidence Based Practices and Clinical Excellence
  • Continuous Quality Improvement

The Open Table model began in 2006 when founder Jon Katov realized that people living in poverty needed more than clothing or food to change their situation – they needed relationships.  Over the course of a year, volunteers meet on a weekly basis to work with a person (called a “brother” or “sister”) seeking support to change. The program educates and trains the volunteers, who can be anyone in a faith- or community-based organization. The group of volunteers then forms a “Table,” guided by a “life plan” that outlines goals specific to a brother or sister.

Graphic of The Open Table ModelVolunteers contribute $10 per month to support the program and they have “homework” that helps the brother or sister with socialization, life skills, or other needs. Assignments might include providing a cooking lesson, teaching bookkeeping basics, finding affordable health insurance, or fixing a bike found at a yard sale so that it can be used for transportation to work. Together, the Table tackles each obstacle to improve functioning and economic stability.

Through the trust forged between Table members, doors open to allow exploration of paths to employment, housing, health care, and education and training.

“Because of the Table, brothers and sisters have their own individual support networks, and subsequently access to many other connections to address housing or other needs,” says Rachel Ludwig, LCSW, Project Director for the Chautauqua Tapestry Expansion Initiative. Ms. Ludwig currently sits on a Table herself. “I have felt friendships mature as our group of relative strangers – our Table – develops into a family that is resilient and loyal,” she says.

Systems of Care grantees support the faith community and their Tables by providing facilitation, coordination, funding, and referrals to behavioral health professionals that might be helpful to the person receiving services.

SAMHSA also works with faith and community-based initiatives to support several programs in mental health services, substance abuse prevention, and addiction treatment at the national, state, and local levels. The Community Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership Program includes more than 800 faith-based community partners among its grantees, and grant program funds are available through the states to faith-based community organizations that engage people with or at risk for mental health and substance use disorders. Because of the success with The Open Table model, SAMHSA is also exploring its use with Center for Substance Abuse Treatment grantees.


Video clips courtesy of The Open Table and Cinematographer Brian Simmermacher.

Resources

SAMHSA Blog