Building Bridges: Exploring Special Initiatives in St. Louis, Missouri

For the past three years, members of the Muslim community have been striving to raise awareness and participation through various projects. The Jewish and Muslim Community Service Day has grown to include more than 1,000 volunteers who work every Christmas on initiatives that benefit charities. The Homeless Transition Assistance Projects (PATH) provide funding from the SAMHSA Mental Health Services Center to states and territories that, in turn, allocate money to local agencies to provide services to people with serious mental illnesses, including those with co-occurring substance abuse disorders who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI) initiative emphasizes the key role that FBCI organizations play in providing substance use prevention, addiction treatment and mental health services, particularly to underserved communities and culturally diverse populations.

This year, volunteers organized a conversation in Daar-Ul-Islam with the goal of having members of Jewish, Muslim and other religions talk about their common values and stories in an open and supportive environment. In the St. Louis area, volunteers meet in fewer places to allow for more conversation and to build bridges between religious communities. During the Jewish Muslim Day of Service, Daar-ul-Islam volunteers created unstitched blankets for Baptist chemotherapy care bags in Missouri.

After breakfast at the Daar-ul-Islam mosque near Ballwin, volunteers spend several hours at different community centers dedicated to projects such as delivering hot meals and bags of candy to impoverished families or elderly people with disabilities, playing with teenagers in juvenile detention centers, and delivering care packages to babies or young children in St. Louis. The SAMHSA Mental Health Services Center has actively participated in and supported faith-based and community organizations involved in mental health and substance use services since 1992. SAMHSA continues to organize numerous conferences and training programs that help religious and community organizations improve their work in substance abuse prevention, mental health services, and addiction treatment. The second initiative is to encourage clergy to take an active role in dealing with substance abuse by sharing the experiences of other religious communities that have already done so.

Raúl Mathiasen
Raúl Mathiasen

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