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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 01/28/04
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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UC Family Doctors and Interfaith Hospitality Network Receive Andrew Jergens Foundation Grant to Help Homeless

The Andrew Jergens Foundation has granted $20,000 to Cincinnati's Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), a local homeless family shelter, and the UC Department of Family Medicine.  The grant is supporting a new project designed to improve the mental health and quality of life for approximately 100 homeless adolescents who are staying at IHN with their parents. 

Interfaith provides food, lodging and a variety of other crucial support services to Cincinnati's homeless families.  Its main goal is to help them find and maintain housing. IHN is one of only two family shelters that admits adult male parents and/or boys over twelve. 

The Jergens project is being administered by Bob Moore, Interfaith's Executive Director.  Two UC family doctors, Professor Susan Montauk, MD, and Associate Professor Jerry Friemoth, MD, are providing group and individual mental health treatment to Interfaith's adolescents. Lawson Wulsin, MD, professor, UC Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine, is a consultant to the project.

The program is unique in that it is taking place on-site (at Interfaith) in an environment to which the teens are accustomed, it has no waiting list, and it is providing free medication, when needed. It offers both supportive therapy and treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

In a typical year there are approximately 25,000 homeless persons in our area, and there is an ever-increasing number of homeless families.  Surprisingly, a third of Cincinnati's homeless are young people.  About two-thirds of these are pre-teens; one-third are teenagers. 

According to Bob Moore, "Young people are most vulnerable to the stresses of homelessness, resulting in problems in school, social life, and family life. In addition, the stress of being homeless can cause children to become severely depressed and lose self esteem.  The generosity of the Jergens Foundation is helping our homeless adolescents with mental illness to live healthier lives."

Dr. Montauk emphasizes that "Homeless families' fears and frustrations and their need for shelter, jobs and healthcare can be so overwhelming that the needs of adolescents suddenly get deeply buried. Yet without parental guidance and emotional support, many teens turn to alcohol and drugs. Worse still, the suicide rate among homeless teens is alarmingly high."

She points out that "Fortunately, here in Cincinnati we have institutions such as the Jergen's Foundation who recognize that intervention at this key time can go a long way to improving the lives of our homeless teens."

This pilot project will serve as a model that can be duplicated by other local, state and national family shelters. This will significantly expand the number of teens helped as a result of the charitable support from the Jergens Foundation.

The UC Department of Family Medicine has a long history of service to the homeless.  Its faculty provide care at the Drop Inn Center and the Cincinnati Health Network's Homeless Healthcare Van. Faculty and staff also work with homeless mentally ill patients at Tender Mercies.  In addition, the Department conducts educational programs to train young doctors how to provide high quality medical care to this challenging population.

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