Event marked the one year anniversary of the Philadelphia Resilience Project

PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Kenney today marked the one year anniversary of the Philadelphia Resilience Project — the City’s emergency response to fight the opioid epidemic — by dedicating a new mural in the heart of Kensington. City officials also shared some of the accomplishments of the project so far.

The mural “Free and Clean,” was created by Henry Bermudez for Mural Arts Philadelphia to symbolize the resilience of the Kensington community and bring hope, color and a sense of brightness to the neighborhood. It’s located at the corner of Kensington and Lehigh Avenues where just one year ago, dozens of individuals resided in a large encampment. Closing that encampment, and three others like it, is among the top achievements of the Resilience Project.

“Recently, Mural Arts was thrilled to partner with the Resilience Project to help reclaim and transform an important gateway in Kensington,” said Jane Golden, Mural Arts Philadelphia Executive Director. “The murals in our city underscore our desire for meaning and for beauty. This new work of art by Henry Bermudez is a wonderful new addition to the collection as it provides the viewer not only with something unexpected and colorful, but the art also provides us with hope and with meaning and encourages us to look towards the future.”

“When I first went to see the wall, I realized that what I created would need to connect with the reality of the sometimes ugly environment in which this mural would exist,” said artist Henry Bermudez. “My main goal was to create something beautiful to symbolize freedom and cleanliness for the neighborhood and those who have been impacted by opioid abuse disorder. The birds and other elements of the mural help symbolize this sense of freedom that many in the community are fighting for.”

Officials were joined by Jolene Piliero, a resident with first-hand experience in the area, having stayed at the former encampment at Kensington and Lehigh Avenues.

“It’s great to see the City working together with the community to create something so beautiful that gives people hope,” said Pathways to Housing PA participant, Jolene Piliero. “A year ago, I was struggling with addiction, and now I’m working and will go to back to school. This shows that when people come together and are willing to help each other, community members, like me, have a chance at recovery and success.”

Photos of “Free and Clean” can be downloaded for news use. (Photo credit should be included when published: Steve Weinik, Mural Arts Philadelphia.)

Managing Director Brian Abernathy shared the progress of the work so far, which is broken down into seven main goals referred to as “mission areas.”

Mission Area 1: Clear Encampments (led by the Managing Director’s Office)

  • Successfully and humanely cleared all major encampments that were not re-encamped. Connected 75% of all people on the by-name list to services, with more than half housed or in treatment.
  • Earned a positive evaluation from University of Pennsylvania researchers for its compassionate and permanent encampment resolution.
  • Created a City directive on how to address future encampments.
  • Developed methodology in the Encampment Resolution Pilot that is now being adapted both locally and across the nation for clearing major encampments and resolving small encampments.

Mission Area 2: Reduce Criminal Activity (led by the Managing Director’s Office of Criminal Justice and Public Safety)

  • Increased safety measures for children using foot and bike patrols, and daily school checks.
  • Created and strengthened existing Safe Corridor routes for travel to and from five schools, with plans to expand to two more.
  • Implemented Police Assisted Diversion (PAD) program in East Police Division that has served 184 people to date.
  • Installed 1,000 LED street lights and additional cameras.
  • Enhanced federal and state partnerships to address narcotic supply and distribution.
  • Expanded the Business Security Camera Program, a Department of Commerce initiative, which helped 146 Kensington businesses to-date by subsidizing 100% of the cost of eligible security camera installation. Another 89 applications have been approved, bringing the anticipated total number of projects to 235. An additional 95 applications were received by Sept. 30, 2019 deadline; these are pending review and fund availability.
  • Are in the final stages of creating a new strategy for police officers to disrupt nuisance behaviors that negatively impact quality-of-life for local residents.

 Mission Area 3: Reduce Unsheltered (led by the Office of Homeless Services)

  • Reduced the number of unsheltered in Kensington by more than 20 percent.
  • Established the Ife Wellness Center which offers respite and wrap-around social services.
  • Dedicated emergency and temporary housing for people with opioid driven homelessness; added 210 long-term housing opportunities for those most in need; and provided 71,345 bed nights for more than 700 people (from October 1, 2018 to September 15, 2019).

Mission Area 4: Reduce Trash and Litter (led by the Community Life Improvement Program) 

  • Recruited individuals with lived experience to assist with daily cleaning.
  • Conducted eight large scale clean-ups and three small scale clean-ups with 935 volunteers.
  • Placed ten needle disposal containers.
  • Removed more than 589 tons of trash and 824 abandoned vehicles.
  • Initiated a new needle collection program that has collected nearly 37,000 discarded needles.
  • Launched a weekly street sweeping program.
  • Completed more than 45,000 graffiti abatements.

Mission Area 5: Reduce Overdoses and the Spread of Infectious Disease (led by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health)  

  • Increased distribution of naloxone (Narcan) and related training.
  • The OD Stat team, comprised of representatives from hospitals, community based organizations, City, state, and federal agencies has met twice and reviews cases to identify missed opportunities to intervene.
  • Installed hand sanitizer sites, one handwashing station and public restrooms to address the spread of Hepatitis A.
  • Provided more than 3,500 Hepatitis A vaccines in 2019.
  • Conducted nearly 2,500 HIV tests in Kensington.
  • Distributed opioid prescribing guidelines to 16,000 healthcare providers citywide by mail and another 1,300 by direct, in-person outreach.
  • Provided all Fire Department ambulances with “leave behind” naloxone (Narcan) to distribute after responding to overdose calls.
  • In 2018, the City experienced an eight percent reduction in fatal overdoses than in 2017, with the sharpest reductions occurring in the Kensington area.

Mission Area 6: Increase Medication Assisted Treatment (led by the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services)

  • Deployed mobile outreach teams including medical professionals to provide Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
  • Launched a Treatment Availability Database (TAD) which provides real-time information about the availability of beds.
  • Made policy changes to increase treatment options across the system.
  • Expanded “warm hand-offs” at hospitals to help more people participate in substance use treatment and services.
  • Continued contract with First Step Staffing to connect individuals in recovery to entry-level employment.
  • Created an EMS alternative response unit (AR-2) staffed by a paramedic, case manager and social worker to offer “warm hand-offs” after responding to an opioid overdose. AR-2 has engaged 192 people and helped 82 patients get into treatment in its first six months.

Mission Area 7: Mobilize Community Response (led by the Managing Director’s Office of Community Services)

  • Established a dedicated Philly311 unit for specialized Kensington/Fairhill information and assignments to address complaints faster.
  • Recruited nearly 1,000 volunteers.
  • Hosted 31 community and civic meetings.
  • Created a community calendar and expanded a bilingual e-newsletter to foster neighborhood engagement by highlighting programming across all mission areas.

Looking ahead, the Resilience Project’s efforts will continue to focus on:

  • Working with the community and establishing cross-sector partnerships to sustain the work beyond 2019.
  • Raising public and private funding to leverage the City’s investment and support the work of community partners.
  • Finalizing and implementing a three-year community and economic development plan for the Kensington/Fairhill area.
  • Expanding successful aspects of the work into other neighborhoods with similar needs.
  • Coordinating with the implementation of the Philadelphia Roadmap for Safer Communities, a citywide violence prevention strategy.
  • Finalizing and implementing new strategies to disrupt the public sale and use of narcotics.
  • Supporting the establishment of overdose prevention sites.
  • Reducing barriers to treatment as well as expanding access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and “warm-offs.”

The Resilience Project will continue its emergency response through December 2019. While the emergency response will formally end on December 31, the work will continue over the next several years.