Ash Center: Kennedy's Legacy Lives On

January 20, 2011
Ash Center: Kennedy's Legacy Lives On
President John F. Kennedy signs the Maternal Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Bill, October 1963, Credit: Cecil Stoughton

Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy's inauguration, his legacy lives on. Many of the below Innovations in American Government Award winners and finalists focused on arts, civil rights, mental health, physical fitness, and sciences have been inspired by his presidency.


Arts Incubator (1996 Winner)
By using non-cash resources to entice nearby arts organizations to set up shop, Arlington, Virginia, has found a way to reinvigorate its arts scene without emptying its coffers. Through the Arts Incubator program, the county provides free or low-cost facilities including theaters, galleries, and studios along with technical and administrative assistance in areas such as lighting design, costume design, and marketing.

Gallery 37 (1997 Winner; 1993 Semifinalist)
Although artistic education is often perceived to be of little use in the general job market, Chicago city officials recognized a link between creativity and job skills and created an appealing arts program that focused on the acquisition of substantive job skills. The city took a vacant city block and re-envisioned it as "Block 37," a multimedia art studio and gallery that offers paid apprenticeships to youngsters from all over the city.

Newport Performing Arts Center: Family Arts Agenda (1990 Finalist)
Newport, Oregon, has the highest rates per capita of alcoholism, suicide, single parent families, and at-risk students in the state. Newport decided to take an alternative route to addressing these problems by building the Newport Performing Arts Center. Through this effort, Newport and its designated arts agency, the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, made a commitment to construct a catalyst for renewing self-esteem, direction, hope, and fun, for its 8,700 residents.

Utah Arts Endowment Fund (1995 Finalist)
In 1990, the Utah Arts Council created the Utah Arts Endowment Fund to insure that Utah's arts organizations have a stable, reliable funding base for success and survival. The governor and the legislature unanimously endorsed and funded $2.3 million for its operation, and the National Endowment for the Arts awarded a $750,000 Challenge 111 Grant in support of the program. By setting up individual endowment accounts, monies are permanently invested and earn interest to be used for programming and operation of arts organizations.

Civil Rights

Racial Integration Incentives (1988 Winner; 1987 Finalist)
Cleveland, Ohio, has long been considered one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. In the suburb of Shaker Heights, the mayor and the city council responded to this troubling trend by establishing the Fund for the Future of Shaker Heights, which utilized the basic principles of earlier neighborhood associations to offer incentives for pro-integrative moves, encouraging diverse families to move into the predominantly African-American Shaker Heights. Similar funds were established for other nearby areas.

Mental Health

Behavioral Health System (1999 Winner)
In 1986, the Behavioral Health System (BHS) agency in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, started exploring the feasibility of developing a unified system for mental health services to treat both mental illness and substance abuse. The approach of the BHS was to coordinate both mental health services and the various federal, state, and local government funding streams. Consolidation of funds enabled case managers to design health care plans to suit the needs of patients rather than attempting to match services with particular lines of funding.

Consumer Case Manager Aide Program (1991 Finalist)
The purpose of the Colorado Mental Health Consumer Case Manager Aide (CCMA) Program is to train and employ persons with chronic mental illnesses as providers of case management services to other chronically mentally ill clients in the public mental health system. The CCMA program is based on the belief that individuals who have been consumers of the mental health and social services systems should have special knowledge of these systems and therefore have some advantages as potential trainees over others who have not had direct involvement.

Correctional Service - Community Support Program (1990 Finalist)
In Milwaukee, like many communities across the nation, the release of thousands of the chronic mentally ill from institutions began in the early 1970s without sufficient reallocation of resources. The untreated chronic mentally ill soon began to show up in large numbers in already overcrowded local jails. In response, the Wisconsin Correction Service developed a treatment program known as the Community Support Program, which seeks to keep mentally ill offenders out of jail and out of the hospitals, and allow them to live independently in the Milwaukee community.

Crisis and Access Line (2009 Finalist)
Georgia’s solution to improving access to behavioral health care was to pioneer a crisis call center program operated by Behavioral Health Link that receives more than 1,000 calls on most business days from people seeking crisis intervention or access to mental health or addiction services. The call center removes key barriers that keep residents from getting help with significant cost savings while providing real-time data reporting for strategic planning.

Decategorized Human Services Delivery Program (1997 Finalist)
Traditionally, human services agencies such as Children and Youth, Drug and Alcohol, Mental Health, and Mental Retardation operated independently of one another. This meant that clients with more than one categorical problem had to work with multiple agencies, navigating through duplicate paperwork, a host of case managers, multiple trips, and generally fragmented services. The Tioga County Human Service Agency devised a model of de-categorized human services that fuses all the categorical services into a single entity for the benefit of multi-service clients.

Living in Family Environments (1994 Finalist)
The Living in Family Environments (LIFE) program places developmentally disabled children into the homes of mothers on public assistance. In the LIFE family setting, the children make significant gains in independence and self-sufficiency, and the mothers, instead of being dependent upon the state for assistance, become independent, self-employed, tax-paying members of the community.

Lucas County Housing Services (1991 Finalist)
The purpose of the Lucas County Housing Services, an initiative of the Lucas County Mental Health Board, is to assist people who are seriously mentally ill to live successfully in affordable, permanent housing they choose themselves. The foundation of Lucas County Housing Services is built on the value placed on the individual choices of potential residents during each step of the process, which includes housing selection, housing development, and housing support services.

Mental Hospital Seclusion and Restraint Reduction (2000 Winner)
Needing more beds for patients, staff of the mental ward at Allentown State Hospital in Pennsylvania decided to take their seclusion rooms out of service and convert them into bedrooms. In order to manage the situations that usually resulted in seclusion, they developed psychiatric emergency teams that could respond to behavior issues and de-escalate situations through verbal intervention and other non-invasive techniques. Eventually, the program expanded through other wards and into other hospitals across the state.

Project Resolve for Special Education (2004 Finalist)
Project Resolve aims to shift the focus back to the needs and outcomes of special needs students, while trying to avoid due process litigation in cases where parents feel that their child’s needs aren’t being met. Unlike federal special education law, which only compensates parents who file suit, Project Resolve subsidizes legal assistance at conflict resolution stage. Project Resolve has reduced the incidence and intensity of litigation while expanding access to effective counsel.

Specialized Treatment and Rehabilitation Services (1990 Winner)
The Specialized Treatment and Rehabilitation Services Program (STARS) provides mental health treatment and social service support uniquely tailored to meet the needs of young boys who were reported to have been molested. A sexual abuse treatment program for pre-adolescent male victims of sexual abuse, STARS was developed and implemented collaboratively by California's Merced County Department of Mental Health and the Merced County Human Services Agency.

Wraparound Milwaukee (2009 Winner)
Wraparound Milwaukee is a community-based system of care that provides comprehensive, highly individualized, family-directed services to youth with serious emotional and mental health needs and their families. Part of Milwaukee County’s Department of Health and Human Services, the program is the first government-operated managed care service designed to treat emotionally disturbed youth in the home setting.

Physical Fitness

Chicago Fitness Plus (2001 Finalist)
In the absence of an organized program, seniors have few viable options for fighting the consequences of inactivity. The Chicago Fitness Plus Program provides an innovative, social alternative to inactivity. The program offers aerobics, strength training, and balance classes to prevent falls.


Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement Program (2001 Winner)
California's Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program boosts educational achievement among underprivileged students, who historically do not go on to higher education in the fields of math, science, and engineering. Instead of taking a remedial tack, MESA simultaneously nurtures the academic efforts of disadvantages students and challenges them to take on more difficult classes and be academically competitive.

Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (2007 Finalist)
In 1993, NASA developed the Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) based in Cleveland, Ohio. It has since built over 17 additional sites across the country, based on the initial model, at community colleges and public schools in low-income neighborhoods. The program harnesses the collective resources of NASA, institutions of higher education, science centers, museums, and grade schools to bridge the education gap for historically underserved and underrepresented youth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (frequently referred to as STEM).