Can art aid mental health?

Porch Light is an unusual partnership between Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) and Mural Arts Philadelphia, a nationally recognized arts organization. This spring, Porch Light opened a new community space in Kensington, Philadelphia—a neighborhood that was once the "workshop of the world" but is now the largest street market for illegal drugs on the East Coast. 

“We’re trying everything,” DBHIDS Deputy Commissioner Roland Lamb told the Philadelphia Inquirer in March. “Treatment programs are not going to be enough. Police are not going to be enough. But if we invest in the community, that will be a real opportunity to make a change.”

The community has been working hard to make change happen. Local nonprofits, including NKCDC and Impact Services Corporation (two active community development corporations) and Prevention Point (a full-service needle exchange and harm reduction center) are helping to coordinate programming for the space, and a neighborhood advisory committee has selected teaching artists to lead workshops there. In addition, a team of muralists is working with community members to create a piece of public art that will be installed in the neighborhood.

"When violence and crime happens, when people are dying from an overdose in large numbers, I think it diminishes our humanity. We lose part of our heart and soul as a city," Mural Arts Executive Director Jane Golden told Plan Philly. "Art can be part of building people's strength."

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