Andy Masters, youth health and wellness coordinator for Baltimore City indicated that on Sept. 7 at an evening meeting at Douglas War Memorial Church in West Baltimore, The Baltimore City Health Department was awarded a $5 million grant by the The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) a federal government agency.

The grant, to be used over the next five years, will target three Baltimore City neighborhoods: Sandtown-Winchester, Penn-North, and Upton Druid Heights. The health department plans to increase trauma-informed care and community development in alignment with the violence prevention program, ‘Safe Streets’.

The multi-million dollar funding opportunity, Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma (ReCAST), was announced by SAMHSA in April. In May, the city health department formed ‘ReCAST West Baltimore’, a group of representatives from community organizations, to assist in applying for the federal ReCAST grant in June.

“We gave a budget for one year, which is typical, but we will get $3 million dollars up front that will support three years of implementation,” said Masters at the meeting.

Typically, federal programs require grant renewal every year. However, this grant will only have to be renewed on year four and five. This method ensures that regardless of who wins the Baltimore mayoral election in November, the money will stay in these communities.

“This is an upfront investment that is going to withstand any administration,” said Masters.

During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Maryland received $77.9 million to address mental health and substance abuse, according to SAMHSA’s website. The most recent funding awards Baltimore  received from SAMSHA were $1.6 million to address underage drinking and $2.7 million to increase permanent housing and treatment services for the homeless with mental health and substance abuse problems.

The SAMHSA grant is not the only funding flowing into these neighborhoods. Recently, Renaissance Academy, a public high school in Sandtown, received over $350,000 from the U.S. Department of Education after the stabbing death of a student in a classroom last year, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The Baltimore City Health Department will serve as a financial steward for the funds. However, to implement the grant, ‘ReCAST West Baltimore’ plans to align with community partners, hire a program manager with a base salary of $60,000, and organize a 15-person community board.

“We decided that there should be a community board to make final decisions on the allocation of resources,” said Dayvon Love, ‘ReCAST West Baltimore’ member and director of public policy of the advocacy group Leaders of A Beautiful Struggle.

‘ReCAST West Baltimore’ plans to complete a needs assessment by December and a community strategic plan and formal plan by March. According to the group’s operating principles: “Over the grant period, funding will be shifted to include smaller, community-led organizations.

“We want to talk about aligning not just dollars, but community programs,” said Masters during the meeting, restating the sentiment.

The next ‘ReCAST West Baltimore’ meeting to continue planning for the use of the grant will be  5-6:30 p.m., Sept. 21 at William Pinderhughes Elementary School on Gold Street.