Frontline features a different rape crisis and recovery center in Maryland each quarter. We ask them five questions in honor of the 1 in 5 women who are survivors of rape in their lifetime.
The following questions were answered by Kathleen O'Brien, CEO of Walden Sierra
(also known in the community as Walden or Walden Behavioral Health). She has been with the organization since signing on as an intern in 1973.
Tell us about your program and the issues it tackles.
With a mission to provide a comprehensive array of crisis, trauma, behavioral health and recovery support services that contribute to the well-being of Southern Maryland, as you can imagine we tackle a number of issues. With respect to our crisis and trauma work, we focus on meeting the needs of St. Mary's County residents. We serve victims of rape, sexual assault, relationship and domestic violence as well as victims of violent crime. Our clients are adults, adolescents and children. Our core services are 24 hour hotline, crisis counseling, emergency services, and trauma-related therapy. We have been fortunate to have funding over the last several years to additionally offer transitional housing services to victims homeless as a result of fleeing abuse, thanks to funding from OVW's Transitional Housing grant program. We also offer a certified Abuser Intervention Program separately to court referred individuals. Lastly, as a full-service behavioral health provider we are very aware of the high need for trauma counseling services among individuals engaged in substance misuse treatment and strive to offer trauma-informed services in those settings.
Why are you a member of MCASA?
I am one of the founding board members of MCASA and so have always valued membership. Being a member of MCASA keeps us connected with other service providers-- a very important reason for membership-- as well as informed regarding technical assistance, best practices and legislative and other areas for strategic planning or concern. Our MCASA membership takes our local coordinated community response value to the state-wide level.
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Walden Sierra Executive Director Kathleen O'Brien (left) and MD Comptroller Pete Franchot[/caption]
What sexual assault prevention work does your program do?
At this time, we are primarily focusing on messaging and prevention engagement with youth/young adults, particularly young men. We are involved in Healthy Masculinities outreach and in an annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes-St. Mary's event, to be held this year on April 7th.
Does anything make sexual assault work different in St. Mary’s County compared to the rest of Maryland?
Being on a peninsula does make us a little more isolated than perhaps other parts of Maryland. As a result, we do have three outpatient sites in St. Mary's County alone. Our largest facility for crisis and trauma remains our Hope Place facility in Lexington Park.
If your program received $100,000 in new funds today, what would you do with it?
At this time, we run our crisis and trauma programming with a gap in funding of $265 per person, between what the cost of providing needed services to victims actually is and what public dollars actually fund. We would certainly use $100,000 to close that gap. Additionally, renovating our crisis/walk in facility to have a more trauma-friendly set-up certainly comes to mind to make the environment in which we serve victims as welcoming and sensitive to their needs as our wonderful staff. Lastly, we would continue to build on our existing work to provide access to trauma therapy in our substance misuse settings in recognition of the high number of individuals accessing substance misuse treatment who are sexual or relationship abuse survivors.
This article is a part of the Spring 2013 issue of Frontline.