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Johns Hopkins Medicine
Media Relations and Public Affairs
Media Contact: Gary Stephenson
May 8, 2006

Federal Grant to Johns Hopkins Continues Development of “Disaster” Clergy

Disaster preparedness rightly focuses on the need to train police, fire firefighters and health care workers to handle major emergencies. But a grant to Johns Hopkins from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene funded by the federal Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) concentrates attention on a an often neglected group of professionals - clergy and spiritual workers - who are asked to provide “disaster ministry” to congregations during  disasters.

Last year, Hopkins won a $94,714 HRSA grant to develop a disaster preparedness curriculum in English and Spanish and a pilot program to train several hundred, mostly Christian, Baltimore-area religious leaders to respond to the mental health and spiritual needs of people in the aftermath of disasters.  A second, Phase II grant for $240,000 provides funding to develop training programs so that communities can home-grow disaster specialists.

Under the new grant, a self-perpetuating disaster preparedness program for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish clergy will be developed.  In addition to training in psychological “first aid” and bereavement counseling, experts will also provide guidance to the local clergy in disaster planning for their congregations and communities.

“This new grant lets us strengthen our communities and equip our neighbors to deal with disasters without the need to call upon other external experts or organizations,” says Lee McCabe, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of the grant. 

Community partners in the program include CURE (Clergy United for Renewal in East Baltimore), the Institute for Mental Health Ministry Inc., the Archdiocese of Baltimore-Office of Hispanic Ministry, the Center for Jewish Education, Masjid El-Haqq, and the University of Maryland Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.