Thursday, October 28, 2010

Groundbreaking "Prostitution Diversion Project" Wins Federal Funding

U.S. Office of Women’s Health awards $100,000 grant to Brandywine Counseling & Community Services (BCCS)

Wilmington, DE – For the past several years, Brandywine Counseling & Community Services (BCCS) caseworkers have walked Wilmington streets from midnight to early morning, encouraging area prostitutes to enter into healthcare and counseling treatment programs. But it is the group’s proposed Prostitution Diversion Project – with its groundbreaking coalition of criminal justice, social service and public health systems - that caught the attention of the federal government and won BCCS a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Office of Women’s Health.

“We are delighted to be recognized for our collaborative approach to the issue of prostitution in Delaware,” said Dr. Lynn Fahey, CEO of BCCS. “These women are in need of both medical and social services but are often trapped in the criminal justice system with limited access. By aligning a network of representatives from all three systems, we can improve the health and welfare of female sex workers, and reduce the cycling rate in the court system of women with criminal charges linked to prostitution. This project is going to save Delaware taxpayers significant sums of money.”

The overall goal of the proposed Prostitution Diversion Project is to reduce the women’s reliance on sex work as a means of income. Originating from interest within Delaware’s Court of Common Pleas, Commissioner Mary McDonough reached out to BCCS to begin discussions around alternative approaches. Depending on the need, BCCS will offer assistance in the form of drug treatment, trauma counseling, job training and placement. The organization also heads up the coalition committee, which includes representatives from the multiple intercept points that interact with the prostitution population. Stakeholders on the committee include:

• Community health/public health providers/clinics
• Non-profit organizations and outreach programs serving at-risk individuals
• Law enforcement agencies
• Court professionals
• Corrections professionals
• Organizations providing services upon prison re-entry
• Our local Academic Institution; The University of Delaware

“Our proposal was small and very specific to protecting the health and welfare of women in the sex trade, so we were the underdogs in a very competitive grant process,” said Basha Silverman, Prevention Director and BCCS Project Coordinator. “I believe our ambitious project was chosen partly because Delaware’s size makes it a manageable location to test for a realistic and sustainable program.”

The grant award extends through August 31, 2011. BCCS has subcontracted with Dr. Chrysanthi Leon of the University of Delaware and Joanna Champney, Executive Director of SURJ (Stand up For What’s Right and Just) to assist the coalition with essential research to determine health needs of the prostitute population as well as develop a corresponding Strategic Plan of Action and detailed Implementation Plan. BCCS’s aim is to align criminal justice and social services to identify an innovative health approach that is women-centered, trauma-informed, cost-effective and sustainable.

At the completion of the grant year, the BCCS Prostitution Diversion Project will compete with 16 other award winners for an additional five-year funding grant from the U.S. Office of Women’s Health to implement the program.

Brandywine Counseling & Community Services, Inc. (BCCS) is a community organization that provides holistic care to persons and their families living with addiction, mental health, and HIV-related challenges. BCCS is Delaware's most recognized provider of behavioral services with seven locations statewide. For more information, please contact Basha Silverman at (302) 655-9880, ext. 123, or visit

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