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We fund organizations and projects which disrupt our current behavioral health space and create impact at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.

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Tia Burroughs Clayton, MSS
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Alyson Ferguson, MPH
Chief Operating Officer

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Vivian Figueredo, MPA
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

Derrick M. Gordon, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Georgia Kioukis, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Samantha Matlin, PhD
Senior Learning & Community Impact Consultant

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Caitlin O'Brien, MPH
Director of Learning & Community Impact

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Joe Pyle, MA

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Nadia Ward, MEd, PhD
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Bridget Talone, MFA
Grants Manager for Learning and Community Impact

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Hitomi Yoshida, MSEd
Graduate Fellow

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Ashley Feuer-Edwards, MPA
Learning and Community Impact Consultant

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Engaging Males of Color BEyond Expectations: Using Storytelling to Improve Behavioral Health

First Person Arts

Engaging Males of Color BEyond Expectations: Using Storytelling to Improve Behavioral Health Logo

Program Website
Winner Status:
Program Type:
Target Population:
Individuals who are Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Program Description

This Initiative seeks to promote an enhanced awareness of the behavioral health challenges experienced by males of color across Philadelphia. Our goal is to improve the health status of males of color by increasing behavioral health literacy and access to resources and services while reducing stigma and known disparities, and building system capacity in order to sustain wellness. First Person Arts (FPA) partners with DBHIDS to create and attract audiences for arts experiences that include true, personal storytelling events followed by non-intimidating dialogue between males of color and the health-care system that serves them. This dialogue amplifies the voices of males of color, shatters public misconceptions and widely disseminates information to this group about behavioral health issues and resources. The post-show dialogue is captured, and delivered to DBHIDS. Feedback from the dialogue informs and refines DBHIDS’ strategies that will be implemented in those domains. This model is designed for replication for population health.


This model combines the creativity of Philadelphia’s premier storytelling organization with DBHIDS’ population health approach to improve the quality of life for males of color. FPA designs customized storytelling events for the Initiative. A theme is determined for each event. FPA puts out a public call for stories from the target group. Storytellers are selected to perform their stories live in front of peers, support networks, systems, and in some cases, the general public. Selected storytellers participate in workshops with trained FPA story coaches and DBHIDS staff. Stories are polished for performance during these workshops. The workshop experience is a safe place for storytellers to process their individual behavioral health issues. This is why DBHIDS staff are included. Stories are shared in a live performance featuring a celebrity storyteller. Following the performance is a talk back with DBHIDS staff. To date we have served over 2000 people through this work.


The Engaging Males of Color is a targeted initiative envisioned by and under the direction of Commissioner Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Jr. With his departure from DBHIDS, the department has renewed its commitment to the work and to First Person Arts’ collaborative role in order to continue Dr. Evans’ legacy. FPA will work directly with Deputy Commissioner Roland Lamb, Interim Commissioner David T. Jones and the DBHIDS EMOC internal team. First Person Arts Executive Director, Jamie J. Brunson continues to represent the arts organization on this leadership team, and serves on the EMOC Strategic Planning Committee. She is also the liaison between the arts and culture sector and DBHIDS.


All EMOC programs are offered FREE to the public. First Person Arts (FPA) receives direct support from DBHIDS through an annual contract. We are about to enter year-two having just received 2018 renewal. The new scope of services will include: training DBHIDS staff as storytelling workshop leaders, at least (2) major live storytelling events and approximately (4) smaller events, strategic planning and other duties as required. FPA is also working with DBHIDS to administer mini-grants to small, community-based organizations developing EMOC programming. Additional funding is secured from foundation and corporate support. An Innovation Award will not only be a major endorsement of this work, and a tribute to Dr. Evan’s legacy, it will have a practical benefit. DBHIDS reimburses FPA for expenses outlaid for Initiative work. If awarded, FPA can use this award as working capital to underwrite Initiative work in advance until payment is received from DBHIDS.


The Engaging Males of Color Beyond Expectation wellness model was envisioned by Dr. Evans, and is being designed for replication. The model involves: 1) creation of arts experiences designed as catalysts for dialogue by FPA; 2) outreach to a myriad of community-based organizations, media outlets and providers serving the target population; 3) post-event dialogue with the target group; 4) dialogue capture and delivery to the health care system; and, 5) creation of policies and procedures informed by the dialogue. The intention is that it the model will also serve other populations, such as veterans, women with trauma, people suffering from Opioid addiction, etc. It is also being designed to serve as a model for other health care systems nationally and internationally. In 2018, we will release status reports on our progress as well as convene thought leaders in the field in order to introduce them to the model.


FPA’s work with this Initiative has five clearly defined outcomes: 1) Improved health literacy for males of color (MOC); 2) new strategies for DBHIDS that will make the system receptive to MOC; 3) innovative outreach strategies to reach MOC; 4) policies at all levels of service delivery that are informed by MOC; and 5) a replicable engagement model that can teach other systems that includes a “tool kit.” These outcomes will be achieved through a four-phase approach. Phase One (2015) integrated feedback gleaned from year one into DBHIDS policies. Phase TWO (2016) that includes data collection, model infrastructure and a report of milestones. Phase Three (2017) to formalize the model, create a learning collaborative, training. Phase Four (2018) will begin to replicate and expand the model to serve other populations.