Just eight years out of college, Anna Morgan-Mullane '05 developed an outpatient mental health clinic in one of the poorest areas of New York City. For her work, Morgan-Mullane was one of five people to receive the 2013 PASEsetter Award, a prestigious award in afterschool excellence, before a crowd of 700 in New York City.
Anna Morgan-Mullane came to Seattle University planning to be a psychologist. After taking a class with Sociology Professor Ruth White and working with children in a White Center elementary school, she refocused her career plans. White proved to be a valuable mentor, and Morgan-Mullane enrolled in Fordham University’s School of Social Work after graduation. Fordham’s intensive program included a 25-hour per week internship. Her practicum was in the Bronx Children’s Psychiatric Hospital.
“I was working in an acute day treatment program in the inner city,” she said. “We were dealing with chronically mental ill adolescents, and treatment included group therapy and intensive clinical therapy. This was the last stop before they could be removed from school and placed in juvenile detention.”
After receiving her MSW, Morgan-Mullane continued to work in the Bronx and joined the staff at the Jacoby Medical Center Pediatric and Adolescent HIV/AIDS Clinic. As the liaison between doctor and patient, she helped children cope with HIV/AIDS.
“Many of the children had lost parents to HIV,” she said. “Not only were they dealing with that loss, they were also trying to cope with their own disease without the support that a parent provides. Taking their medication is a daily reminder of the illness they have.”
Many of Morgan-Mullane’s clients were HIV positive from infancy. Doctors in the clinic knew the families, and as the children aged, the clinic staff provided therapy and support to help them in adolescence.
“Some of our patients had difficulty in school. Some had mental illness. Some got pregnant. All were living with the specter of HIV,” Morgan-Mullane emphasized.
In 2009, Morgan-Mullane joined a newly established social service agency, Children of Promise. Located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, Children of Promise began by providing mentoring, summer camp, and after-school activities for children whose parents were incarcerated. The agency developed a special curriculum with a therapeutic component in its programing. When it became clear that the agency needed to expand its therapeutic work, Morgan-Mullane and Executive Director Sharon Content established an outpatient therapeutic mental health clinic. Morgan-Mullane became its first director.
“Children with parents, siblings, or relatives in jail have particular mental health needs,” Morgan-Mullane emphasized. “Like children dealing with HIV, they experience shame. They act out, tend to get involved in crime, and have problems in school. The clinic and after-school programs provided a safe, therapeutic environment, and we have had great success in breaking the cycle of incarceration too often seen in families.”
The clinic receives referrals from principals, teachers, foster care parents, and social workers. Staff work directly with the children, their teachers, and their parents. All services are free.
“Ruth White got me interested in working with marginalized populations,” Morgan-Mullane said. “It’s hard and stressful but rewarding work. I go jogging a lot. ”