Delaware congressional delegation celebrates increased federal funding for Mental Health Fellowship Program

WILMINGTON, De. (Dec. 19, 2022) – U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper and U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.) today joined leaders of Jewish Family Services Delaware (JFS) and counselors-in-training for a press conference at the Jewish Community Center to celebrate $3.5 million in federal funding to help those counseling fellows achieve their licensing so they can work in the First State.

Through his work on Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Coons was able to secure the funding for Jewish Family Services of Delaware’s Mental Health Fellowship Program. The money created 16 fellowship positions for new paid, licensed professionals who aid anyone in Delaware in need of such services, regardless of race, religion, orientation, or identity. The Ferris School, YWCA, and Neighborhood House are just some of the organizations benefiting from these fellows.

“In over 120 years in Delaware, Jewish Family Services has provided a remarkable array of support and services that clearly shows their commitment and support for families of all backgrounds,” Sen. Coons said. “One of the things that is at the very heart of the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam is healing—not just the Jewish world, but the entire world, and to show an understanding of neighborliness that reaches out and beyond. At the very core of Torah values, of righteousness, is the mitzvah of giving kindness and support to those who can’t pay you back in any way.”

The delegation was able to nearly double the funds initially requested JFS by to better address Delaware’s lacking mental health resources. JFS at first sought $1.6 million from the federal government but eventually increased their request to $3.5 million in order to help a greater number of Delawareans.

“This is a big deal,” said Wendell Covell, Clinical Director of the JFS Delaware Fellowship Program. “JFS Delaware has a group called Helping the Helper, and that really means something to me because when you help the helper, we can help the whole community. Our social workers, our therapists, when the crisis hits, they’re the first people to show up. So thank you for helping these fellows, so they can go on to help others. These fellows will go on to provide 14,000 individual, group, and family mental health sessions, and serve over 2,000 Delawareans.”

Delaware has seen the number of mental health professionals decline in the past five years. At the same time, the demand for mental health services has increased. This project addresses the growing mental health crisis, rising demand for counseling, and lack of licensed mental health practitioners in Delaware.

“I work in the community with families, I work with individuals, and what is needed right now is compassion, is understanding, is people to provide services with expertise and without judgment,” said Laura Dickol, a JFS Fellow. “That’s the goal I see all of these fellows working toward, and it’s not just a two-year process. This is a lifelong learning opportunity.”

The $3.5 million for JFS is the second-largest amount of congressional funding secured for a program in Delaware this year. Monday’s event celebrated the launch of the Mental Health Fellowship Program, which got underway in part thanks to these funds. It also provided an opportunity to showcase some of the fellows currently receiving their training.

“We’ve got a big mental health problem across the nation, and part of it is that we don’t have enough licensed providers. This is targeting that problem, and looking to be a part of the solution,” said JFS Delaware Board President Peter Hurd. “We’re going to have to tackle a number of other hurdles, so thank you for setting us on a great path to start addressing some of the biggest.”