“Yes, 30 minutes a week can and will make a big difference,” says Pastor Alan Eschenbacher of
All-Saints Lutheran Church in Browne’s Addition.
“Based on several years of serving the mentally ill in Spokane, we know that increasing social
contact even 30 minutes a week can go a long way in their lives,” he noted. “We see it each
week in our church’s Tuesday evening soup kitchen (which serves over 120 meals each week) We see it with All Saints’ food bank, our community garden and our other social ministries.”
Reducing social isolation is an important way for faith-based groups to help bridge the gap in
mental health services and to help the mentally ill integrate into the Spokane Community.
That is what the newly-created Spokane Community Mental Health Chaplaincy Companionship
Program (SCMHCCP) plans to do. All Saints Lutheran Church is the lead agency for this new
Recently All Saints Lutheran received a Empire Health Foundation grant that will bring
together members of the Spokane Faith Community to develop a lay companionship program
that will bring hope, human contact and compassion to Spokane’s mentally ill.
“These are our neighbors. They can be the homeless, parents with children, the elderly, the
young, veterans, victims of violence, those struggling with substance abuse. They are still our
neighbors and we can help them by us acting as their neighbors,” Eschenbacher explains.
Social isolation is a major problem for Spokane’s mentally ill population. All too often, those
suffering from mental illness are isolated, with no one talk with and no one to reach out to for
A proven way for faith-based organizations to help reduce this social isolation is through a
proactive companionship program. Faith-based organizations have a proven track record of
filling the unmet needs of the mentally ill, be they homeless or with housing.
The new SMHCCP is based on the Seattle Mental Health Chaplaincy which has a strong and
long record of reducing social isolation and increasing support of the mentally ill by pairing
trained volunteers with mental health patients.
The volunteers will have weekly one-on-one contacts, either in person or by phone, with the
patients to help reduce social isolation and to help the patient manage basic life needs. The
contacts can be either in person or by phone.
Most importantly, each volunteer will provide much-needed social contact with the patient.
SCCMHCP will serve patients in Spokane County, with a focus on the Spokane downtown area,
Browne’s Addition and the West Central neighborhoods, all of which have large populations of
mental health patients.
To support a chaplaincy, local faith based organizations will have a team of people trained in a
companionship model of support for those with mental illness.
The Spokane Mental Health Chaplaincy Companionship Program will be providing the
volunteer training beginning in December.
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