A message from our Executive Director....

I often remark that I am taken aback sometimes by how naturally happy children can be for seemingly no reason. Perhaps the years and the summary of my experiences have battered me in ways that I cannot fully appreciate. However, there seems to be something in me that allows me to access happiness during the summer months in ways that are much more challenging when the warm weather abates and the amount of daylight available to us diminishes.

The challenge that I have put forth to myself this year is to actively seek out the child that at times lies latent in me. I challenge myself to explore joy for no other reason than to experience it itself. Henry David Thoreau once stated that “We are made happy when reason can discover no occasion for it.” As we say goodbye to yet another summer season, will you join me in the quest to be happy for no reason? I hope that you do.

Elijah Wheeler

ICYMI: Tha' Block Party Pride & Arts Festival

On June 30, MoCo ReConnect hosted its inaugural Pride & Arts Festival in downtown Wheaton. This youth-led event celebrated young people, art, and Pride while raising awareness about MoCo ReConnect's drop-in center for young adults ages 16-24. 

We thank the young people who envisioned and organized this event for their leadership, spirit of determination, and resilience. Despite a summer downpour, the festival was a joyous celebration infused with youthful energy and positivity. We also thank all who helped make the event possible, including LAYC and Sheppard Pratt. Watch this short video for highlights.

Healthy Babies Equity Act:

Pregnancy & Postpartum Medicaid Coverage for Noncitizens Now Available

As of July 1, 2023, noncitizen pregnant individuals in Maryland of any immigration status have access to Medicaid coverage. The benefit provides coverage during pregnancy and for four months after the baby is born. Medicaid may also help pay for health care received in the three months prior to applying.

See this post from Maryland Health Connection (MHC) to learn more, or download this MHC flyer.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Learn about the Woman who Inspired

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

In 2008, July was designated as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), Campbell "advocated for spaces of hope and healing where the unheard and untreated could find inclusive and equitable resources for support and mental health care." Campbell was an author and activist who co-founded NAMI Urban Los Angeles. You can learn more about her life and legacy here.

Bebe Moore Campbell


Minority Voices Report

A great starting point for learning more about minority mental health in our community is Minority Voices 2022: Our Mental Health Journey, a report from Montgomery County’s three minority health initiatives/programs: the African American Health Program, Latino Health Initiative, and Asian American Health Initiative (all part of the Department of Health and Human Services).

This report features 27 Montgomery County residents who share their mental health journeys. It also includes local resources and a call to action (pages 12-13) suggesting ways everyone can get involved to help address longstanding disparities, strengthen systems of care to welcome ethnically diverse communities, and ensure linguistic and culturally responsive services and resources for a healthy community.

Disability Pride Month

July 26 marked the thirty-third anniversary of the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If you're looking to deepen your awareness of disability issues and lived experiences, check out this list of 12 Disability Activists You Should Know (and Follow!).

For some great reading suggestions, see 42 Best Books On Disabilities Curated by a Disability Activist.

The first book on the list is Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally by Emily Ladau – a great starting point for being a thoughtful, informed ally to disabled people.*

The stripes on the Disability Pride Flag, designed by Ann Magill, symbolize disability experiences: red for physical disabilities; gold for cognitive and intellectual disabilities; white for nonvisible and undiagnosed disabilities; blue for psychiatric disabilities; and green for sensory disabilities. Learn more about the meaning of the flag here.

* Is it "Persons with Disabilities" or "Disabled People"? It depends.

The ADA stipulates person-first language (such as the widespread use of "persons with disabilities"). However, many disabled people prefer identity-first language. For instance, see this post by Cara Liebowitz from The Body is Not an Apology. Leibowitz's thoughtful post is worth reading in full, but here is the heart of her argument: "Though person-first language is designed to promote respect, the concept is based on the idea that disability is something negative, something that you shouldn’t want to see. After all, no one tells me that I should call myself a person with femaleness or a person with Jewishness. I’m a Jewish woman. No one questions that. Yet when I dare to call myself a disabled person, it seems the whole world turns upside down."  

For more on the history of person-first language and evolving preferences, see Writing Respectfully: Person-First and Identity-First Language by NIH Public Affairs Specialist Shannon Wooldridge.


Main Street Connect

As part of Disability Pride Month, we invite you to revisit a relevant conversation from May 2020, when Collaboration Council Executive Director Elijah Wheeler talked with Jillian Copeland, Founder and Executive Director of Main Street Connect.

In this video Jillian shares her insights on the importance of inclusivity for adults living with disabilities. Listen to the full conversation on SoundCloud.

Welcome Cornelius!

We are excited to introduce Cornelius Kuteesa, who recently joined the Collaboration Council staff as Project Manager for MoCo ReConnect and Reengagement Programs. Cornelius brings an array of skills and talents to our team, with extensive experience in mental health rehabilitation, homeless services, policy research, and knowledge of Montgomery County’s Continuum of Care. Prior to joining our team, Cornelius worked as Program Manager for a Montgomery County partner agency that works with individuals experiencing homelessness in down and East parts of the county including Bethesda, downtown and greater Silver Spring, Wheaton and Potomac. In that position, he played a key role in helping dozens of people move off the streets and into subsidized permanent supportive housing.

Cornelius is passionate about inclusive social policies and continues to use his background in social policy to advocate for vulnerable people in the community to make sure no one is left behind. He has served on various county and community committees focused on social justice issues and serves as board member on a local nonprofit that focuses on environmental conservation. He is also a reservist in the United States Air Force and prides in his service. Cornelius earned his master’s degree in Development Studies from Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. 

Welcome to our Collab Corner. Each month, we ask Collaboration Council staff members to share a little about their personal interests or pastimes - things they've been doing to relax, recharge, learn something new, or just have fun.

Amy Southerland

Communications Manager

My appreciation for audio reporting and storytelling goes back to long before the word “podcast” entered the language. I was a big fan of This American Life when the only way to listen was to tune in to my public radio station. In fact, I once recorded an entire season of TAL on cassette tapes as a birthday present for my brother, who often had to work when the show was on.

Fast forward and now TAL and other public radio shows are all available as podcasts – along with about 5 million other options. This year, one of my favorite new podcasts is Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. In her podcast, Louis-Dreyfus, who is 62, has fascinating conversations with women who are older than she is, and where aging itself is part of the discussion. Her guests were Jane Fonda (85), Isabel Allende (80), Fran Lebowitz (72), Ruth Reichl (75), Darlene Love (82), Diane von Furstenberg (76), Gina McCarthy (69), Amy Tan (71), Rhea Perlman (75), and Carol Burnett (90).

I highly recommend the season finale with Burnett because Louis-Dreyfus is totally fangirling, and it’s a joy to listen to these two iconic funny women talk about their lives. As someone from the "cassette-tape generation" squinting at 60 on the not-too-distant horizon, I appreciate hearing from these wiser-than-me women, including Louis-Dreyfus herself. On my wish list for season 2: Alice Walker (79), Margaret Atwood (83), Judi Dench (88), and Rita Moreno (91). 

Thank you for your continued support of children, youth and families in Montgomery County.
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