MDC Community News for Winter / Spring 2016

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Mark Pereboom, CEO

A focus on integrated care for people with complex needs

It has become clear over the last few months that Tacoma and Pierce County have a growing number of people living on the streets, in their cars, and other places not fit for human habitation.  One just has to look at Tacoma Avenue or Fawcett Avenue downtown and see the long term impact that the great recession has had on vulnerable individuals and families.  While we await the official results of how many people were experiencing homelessness during the Pierce County Point In Time Count that took place on Jan. 29, 2016, we need to double up our efforts to support those in need.  This has been a wet winter, and at our health clinic for the homeless we are seeing an increasing number of chronic conditions complicated by living outdoors.  Through donations this year, MDC provided coats, rain gear, boots and hygiene products for many.

Each of these individuals has a story.  They are more than a number in a point in time count.  They are someone’s mother, brother, sister or father, and few of these people found themselves living outside through the same series of circumstances. What is clear is that no matter how those who are currently experiencing homelessness found themselves without options, each person counts and each person has complex needs that requires support to overcome their current situation.

Our circumstances do not need to define us, our dreams can.

As MDC created its strategic plan for the next five years, we asked many community members about the greatest need in our community, and how we could use our skills to have the most meaningful impact for the people we serve. The answer was clear – we must focus on bringing our expertise in health care, mental health and supportive housing together to improve the lives of people with complex needs.  We must bridge the independent systems, in order to respond to what is quickly becoming a community crisis. This year, MDC will enhance our approach to providing housing and health care.  Services for those with housing, medical and behavioral health needs will be delivered in a manner that creates one patient-centered care plan with a team that supports that plan. Currently, the industry relies on multiple treatment plans, and at best coordinated plans.  We believe health outcomes, and housing stability will increase with one integrated service plan.  This model builds from our existing Integrated Co-Occurring Treatment services, housing case management, chemical dependency and mental health treatment programs.  I look forward to sharing our progress, and the impactful outcomes we anticipate.  I hope you will join in supporting this effort.







Andrew Johns did his best to survive as a teen growing up in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood during a period of gang and drug activity. He struggled to excel academically and due to actions that he took, he eventually found himself in a juvenile detention facility. While incarcerated, he spent his time working toward his high school diploma.

“I knew that having my diploma now would help pave the way for college,” Johns said. Unfortunately, one major hurdle he did not count on was a change in technology. This barrier made the college application process difficult.

“Being incarcerated for most of my years, it handicapped me in regards to being computer and Internet savvy,” Johns said. As a homeless single father with a young son, Andrew knew he had to overcome his frustration. He sought guidance from a friend who directed him to MDC’s Education Opportunity Center (EOC) program.

“I spoke with an MDC EOC advisor at the Bates Downtown campus and she got me enrolled in the next quarter at Tacoma Community College,” Johns said. “EOC advisors went through the process so that I could visually see the application and registration process.”

Andrew eventually received his Associates degree in Arts and Sciences, but knew it would be difficult to find employment with a criminal background and limited education. Through more EOC guidance, and his love of audio, he enrolled in the broadcasting program at Bates Technical College.  In his current pursuit of a career in broadcast, Andrew maintains a solid grade point average while also working full time to support himself and his young son.





Growing up in a family that is familiar with MDC Scholars, Jessa Marshall had a good impression of the program from her older sister.

“She would talk to my twin sister and I about college visits and the annual PLU summer mentoring program,” Marshall said. “The idea of college visits to potential schools of interest and having extra mentoring during the summer, increased my interest in entering the MDC Scholars program.”

Following the tragic loss of her mother in an automobile accident when she was 12, Jessa had a lot of questions that led to her interest to study law. She came away with an ultimate goal that she would like to return to the community to help students dealing with the loss of a parent and to help answer their questions.

“Because of MDC Scholars, I now know what schools I need to look into that offer my major,” Marshall said. She explains that MDC Scholars has opened pathways to her success by simply preparing students for success in general.

“The program allows for open discussion about the needs and goals of the students. It helps with the basic needs of what it takes to be a good student and succeed in college,” she said.

Currently a senior at Mount Tahoma High School, Jessa remains productive in achieving her goals of higher education. Last year, she inspired many as she spoke during a Graduate Tacoma event, and she recently completed an internship with the Tacoma Fire Department, where she worked alongside some of the firefighters in actual response situations. Her goal is to graduate from high school this year with a 3.5 grade point average and attend University Washington-Seattle in the fall, with a focus on pre-law.



How You Can Help

People are hurting in our community, and you can do something to help. Last month our MDC offices were visited by Sandra. When we arrived in the morning, we found her trying to sleep in a doorway outside, exposed to the weather. And when we talked with Sandra, she needed food, a place to clean up for the day, and somewhere else to sleep the next night.

We gave Sandra some food and connected her to our hygiene center for a shower, to help her with her immediate needs.

There are many people like Sandra outside in our community every night. With your help, we can make a bigger positive difference in their lives. Donating is easy. Visit

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