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2008 Awards for Local Nonprofits:

Santa Monica and Venice nonprofit organizations have been recognized for outstanding work in 2008 by various agencies in the past month.

The OPCC Daybreak Program won the California Department of Mental Health’s (DMH) 2008 Projects for the Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) Exemplary Practice Award in the area of Consumer Empowerment. DMH said that Daybreak’s mission of empowering women recovering from homelessness and mental illness to rebuild their lives through creative, personal, and financial growth exemplifies the recovery and resilience principles of that agency. In addition, Daybreak was found to help women who are facing the multiple challenges of co-occurring mental illness, substance addiction, and repeated incidents of domestic violence regain a sense of self worth and begin the healing and rebuilding process of their lives. www.opcc.net

The Step Up on Second program for young adults experiencing their first episode of mental illness, Daniel’s Place, was awarded the Innovative Program of the Year Award from the California Mental Health Advocacy for Children and Youth (CMHACY) at the group’s 28th Annual Conference. CMHACY is a diverse association of citizens dedicated to advancing children’s mental health services in California. Formed in 1980 by people who saw the need to focus attention on children’s issues, CMHACY has grown into a large and broad-based coalition of persons concerned with the mental health needs of California’s vulnerable children and youth.

Step Up on Second involves individuals with severe and persistent mental illness in developing opportunities to reintegrate into the community, is dedicated to the long-term support of people in recovery and their families, and is committed to increasing public understanding and acceptance of mental illness. www.stepuponsecond.org

Venice Family Clinic – the largest free clinic in the country – was selected by the California HealthCare Foundation to receive its new LEAP Award for the chronic pain program at the Clinic’s Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center on Pico Boulevard.

“This is a model that clinics across the state and around the country could adopt,” said Myles Spar, MD, Director of Integrative Medicine at the Center.

The California HealthCare Foundation, an independent philanthropy committed to improving the way health care is delivered and financed in California, created its LEAP Award (Leveraging Excellence, Advancing Practice) to recognize model health care practices and innovative ways of meeting the health needs of the state’s underserved populations.

Venice Family Clinic’s chronic pain program uses acupuncture and chiropractic care, as well as counseling, to help patients manage pain from back injuries, migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other conditions. Chronic pain is especially hard on those with low incomes because many are manual laborers and are unable to work effectively through the pain. In addition, many live paycheck to paycheck and are devastated by any loss of income. Making matters worse, free clinics rarely offer treatment for chronic pain.

Dr. Spar added, “There’s a six-month wait list for many surgeries at County hospitals, and waiting that long can be agonizing, given that prescription pain-killing drugs are often unaffordable and over-the-counter pain relievers carry serious side effects from long-term use. Acupuncture and chiropractic, on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive to administer and can provide relief in a matter of weeks.”

The chronic pain program is just one of several activities at Venice Family Clinic’s Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center, which is home to the nation’s first health, wellness, and integrative medicine program offered at a free clinic. The Center also features stress management, parenting and nutrition skills training, and family weight management programs, as well as health and wellness promotion, including tools to help patients find no- or low-cost fitness resources in the communities where they live.

“This program takes a larger view of chronic pain by also incorporating prevention,” Dr. Spar said. “Practitioners give patients exercise recommendations, nutritional information, and stress reduction tips to help them avoid re-injury.”

Venice Family Clinic’s Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center was launched in 2006 with generous funding from The Simms/Mann Family Foundation and features a wide range of evidence-based integrated services, which focus on the whole person and whole family, in both individual and group settings. The building is designed to create an environment that supports patient healing, healthy lifestyles, and overall wellbeing. It includes a free-standing computer kiosk with health and wellness programming, health education literature, and health promotion television programming in the waiting area. chcf.org/topics/view.cfm?itemID=133804

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