The Blue Dove Foundation was first envisioned by Justin Milrad, Alyza Berman and Daniel Epstein of The Berman Center to help support their intensive outpatient work in Atlanta. They understood that cost is often a barrier to treatment, and there is a need for practical tools and further education around the issues of mental health and addiction.
- The foundation’s three-part mission is:
Education, awareness and outreach within the Jewish community, to advance the conversation, eliminate the stigma and shame, encourage conversations, and provide information and tools for individuals and families seeking assistance;
- Benevolent assistance such as scholarships or interest-free loans, for treatment for those who cannot afford;
- Prototype programs in the community to address issues related to mental health and/or substance abuse, such as development of a “Jewish” mental health toolkit for synagogues, schools, camps and youth groups; or placing mental health experts in schools and camps.
After receiving nonprofit designation in April, the new foundation is in growth and development mode, said Milrad, foundation CEO. The Blue Dove Foundation has planned an impactful agenda of community programming and has created a framework of useful resources, and is now seeking more funding and community partners.
The foundation is receiving widespread support. “Blue Dove is for the community and by the community,” Milrad said. The nonprofit is in talks with Jewish Interest Free Loans of Atlanta to guarantee zero interest loans, and is seeking further support for scholarships in cases of extreme hardship.
After the resounding response Blue Dove received as an exhibitor at the 2017 URJ Biennial, it knew it must extend outside of the community. “We realized we have to do something beyond Atlanta, so that everyone could participate and benefit,” Milrad said. The foundation will expand across the U.S. and Canada next year so that any Jewish person can receive treatment. All programs can be downloaded from the foundation website and can be edited for use in other markets.
Relationships with larger Jewish foundations will also advance program development and provide funds needed for treatment at any reputable facility anywhere in the country.
Although completely separate, the Blue Dove logo is akin to the original Berman Center artwork. The bird in the new foundation logo (pictured) symbolizes the dove released by Noah in Genesis 8:11. Tasked with finding land after the flood, the dove returned with an olive leaf, a sign of hope following devastation. The dove also represents a deep, abiding peace that calms and provides purpose.
Continuing the creativity, Blue Dove produced t-shirts for a strong team showing in the recent Peachtree Road Race on the Fourth of July. A jewelry line is in development to raise funds and help identify allies for anyone struggling with mental health or addiction issues, and special kippot have been produced as part of the Blue Dove Foundation High Holidays Initiative.
“Atlanta is getting yet another tool to help combat addiction and mental illness,” Milrad said. “You could look at The Blue Dove Foundation as a community asset – an open resource that anyone can access.”
When asked how the community has responded to the national mental illness and addiction crises, Milrad said he’s glad “that we, as a Jewish community, are talking about, and acting on it. We’re only half-a-mile into a full marathon, but we’re making great progress.” ■
Watch for information on new Blue Dove community resources and more signature “Quieting the Silence” around mental illness and substance abuse events in upcoming issues of the AJT. For more information, click Blue Dove, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 678-786-1213.