A Conversation for Those Standing at the Intersection of Faith and Mental Health


Find the Gap. Don't Overlap

Part 2: Building a Community Response

This is part two of a segment by our guest, Mark Boorse. Last month he reflected on a community project to address the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. In part two, he offers some ideas for addressing other common issues in our communities.

Often, we see people struggling with an issue like homelessness, mental health issues, substance use, and we think, “there’s a service for that”. And that’s true, there are services that are helpful to many people. However, when we think about helping primarily in terms of getting a person to a service or treatment, we run the risk of missing some of the bigger picture, and we end up with “gaps”:

  • Services have a “bandwidth”; a focus, a duration, a piece of a person’s experience that they respond to. Often, there is a larger, human context beyond the scope of the service that is fundamentally important to a person’s well-being. For example, I might seek treatment for depression and find that my symptoms of feeling withdrawn and isolated are much improved. And, I can still struggle to find important relationships and purpose.
  • Meaningful help for most of us comes from different places, many of which are outside the scope of services. As humans, we share some pretty universal needs: connection, being valued, a way to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, purpose and meaning. Many times, these things happen in other parts of community life; faith communities, civic groups, mutual support groups, volunteer opportunities.

There are things that each of us, as part of our communities, can do to find those gaps and address them in a collaborative way. There is a model of doing this called “collective impact”; it focuses on issues that are bigger than any one section of the community can address. It also recognizes that solutions lie in aligning our efforts towards a unified goal. Here are a couple of practical ways you can get started engaging your community in working on common issues:

  • Frame the issue in community terms. Homelessness is in every community, even if it is hidden. Mental illness, suicide and bullying effect all of us in some way. The opioid epidemic has shown us that the impact of addiction touches all of us as well. Clearly naming how these issues impact a local community is an important first step.
  • Invite everyone into a public conversation. Zoom has become a good platform for “townhall meetings”. Invite people who are interested in the topic to come. Include people with proximity to the issue; people who have experienced the issue themselves or who have lived “in the trenches” with those who do.
  • “Network for action”. Find others in this process who are like minded in wanting to address an issue across the community. Set a common goal and share resources within the group to get started.

This may feel like a daunting task. We have found that a lot of good things happen when people gather and talk, learning from each other and sharing ideas. It might feel vague and indirect at first but often it can lead to agreed on action.

Through a grant from SAMHSA, Access’ Intersect program has developed a training series to assist both the faith community and service providers in collaborating to address mental health issues. The title of the training is, “Better Together: How faith communities, mental health providers, and government can collaborate to promote wellness”. If you are interested in learning more about this training, please contact Dave Eckert at deckert@accessservices.org.

The link below is to a short article with very practical tips for churches in considering how they might impact homelessness in their communities. It also describes collaborative activities and relationships from across the community. If you are coming from a church perspective, what strikes you as something that your congregation could do as a practical step? If you are from another part of the community, how might these suggestions apply to your perspective?

Mark Boorse, Director of Program Development at Access Services

Recommended Resources
Below are resources for the purpose of wellness, education, and service.

Healing & Strengthening our Faith Leaders

A program addressing the mental health of members of the clergy.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Benefit and Diversity Committee of Jefferson Abington Hospital will host this special program for members of the clergy. Dave Eckert, Director of Intersect, will deliver the keynote speech.

Following the keynote speaker, there will be a panel discussion.

Date: Monday, June 13, 2022
Time: 1PM - 3PM
Virtual & In Person: Zaslow Auditorium, Frobese Conference Center, Jefferson Abington Hospital, 1200 Old York Road, Abington, PA 19001 | or via Zoom
Cost: FREE


"Better Together" Training Series

Faith-based leaders are often the first point of contact when individuals and families face mental health problems or traumatic events. When leaders know how to respond, they become significant assets to the overall behavioral health system. You are invited to join this virtual eight-week training to learn various evidence-based recovery oriented techniques to enhance collaboration amongst faith-based leaders, congregants, and behavioral health professionals. Participants will improve their skills and knowledge in developing community-based partnerships that will connect with and support individuals living with mental illness.

If you want to receive this training contact Dave Eckert at deckert@accessservices.org


Looking for a way to help those in your community?

Intersect: Community Needs Facebook Group

This Facebook group functions as a care portal for faith communities who are looking to meet local needs in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. We will post needs specific to the individuals supported by Access Services. These may include needs for relational support, material resources, and/or monetary donations. We encourage you to share this page with your family and friends. While we started this page to provide concrete service opportunities to local faith communities, we encourage any community members who are interested in giving back to join!


Become a Foster Parent

You can help a child make memories for a lifetime. There are many children and teens in your community who need people like you to open your heart and give them a safe, loving place to call home. Foster parents can make a difference in a child’s life by setting a good example and providing the time, care, and attention that every child deserves.


Become a Lifesharing Provider

By becoming a Lifesharing Provider, you will have the opportunity to open your home and share your life with an adult with an intellectual disability. Your support and assistance will enrich an individual’s life by affording them the opportunity to become a fully participating member of their community and empowering them to reach for and achieve their goals and aspirations.


Questions to Ponder

1. What are issues or needs that you see impacting your entire community?

2. With whom do you need to network to build a broad community response?


Do you have something to contribute or a question to ask?

Intersect is brought to you by:


Access Services
500 W Office Center Drive, Suite 100  | Fort Washington, Pennsylvania 19034
215-540-2150, x1286    deckert@accessservices.org

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