This is a season of busy activity for Shalem’s Board of Directors. Charitable status has just been received for our new Shalem Mental Health Foundation, designed to provide financial support for Shalem’s work through legacy giving and the creation of endowment funds. And on April 4, 2014, Shalem’s Board and Staff came together for a stimulating day-long review of Shalem’s Vision, Mission, and Values Statements.
It’s been seven years since Shalem’s core statements were reviewed. As with any organization, periodic reviews are key to our health as an organization. The day was facilitated for us by Clayton Rowe, Director of Canadian Programs for World Vision Canada (World Vision partners with Shalem through its Partners to End Child Povertyprogram). The Board is now formulating the results of the day and will then move towards adopting our next three-year Strategic Plan. The opportunities for Shalem as we move forward are strong and hopeful!
One of those opportunities is the possibility of establishing a Shalem “Centre of Excellence and Learning in Community-Based Mental Health.” A Centre of that nature would serve as a virtual “umbrella” for our increasing program evaluation, research, workshop and professional publication activity—all rooted in Shalem’s growing programs in community-based mental health.
Under such a Centre, we would explore further the data created through our state-of-the-art WrapAround evaluation regime, funded by the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health, and undertaken in partnership with Dalhousie University’s Resilience Research Centre, Wrap Canada and the U.S.-based National WrapAround Initiative.
Shalem’s RE-create program, supported by World Vision Canada, is also partnering with the Resilience Research Centre through its Spaces and Places project to measure the resilience of the street-involved youth we work with at RE-create. Our Congregational Assistance Plan (CAP) Research Working Group is building further on two evaluative essays about CAP published in professional journals. And explorations are underway for evaluation, research and publication on our restorative practice and attachment psychotherapy work. A Centre would also provide a framework for exploring the linkages—especially the dynamics of healthy relationships in communities—that tie these various areas of our work together.
A central aspect of all of these explorations at such a Centre would be demonstrating what is called the “social return on investment” (SROI) of effective mental health programs. A critical new direction in funding mental health programs is demonstrating their cost-effectiveness, based on outcomes. A key component of that is to attach value to our work.
For example, let’s say our WrapAround program prevents a child, at the age of 11, from becoming a permanent Crown Ward. We would take the number of days between the ages of 11 and 16 that he or she was not a Crown Ward and multiply that by the daily cost of maintaining a child in the care of the Children’s Aid Society. The “Return on Investment”—the amount of monies that WrapAround has saved the government— would be that cost less the cost the WrapAround work that supported the child. The same formula can be applied to other residential settings, such as prisons and hospitals. Examples of this data (especially in WrapAround) already exist and are compelling. Increasingly, as was reinforced at an annual Family Service Ontario conference I attended on May 8, these kinds of formulas will be driving funding in the mental health sector.
What makes Shalem unique is our emphasis on creating a new, different partnership between communities and professional mental health services. This positions us well for these kinds of outcome-based calculations and explorations, and a Centre of Excellence and Learning for Community-Based Mental Health is the next logical step in our development.
That’s one of the areas our hard-working Board will explore in the coming weeks. All of us—staff, supporters, participants in service—are so well served by their extraordinary commitment and dedication!
Looking ahead for Shalem—the future is a hopeful one!
Mark Vander Vennen, MA, M.Ed, R.S.W., is Executive Director of the Shalem Mental Health Network.