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New CONNECT Director Leads with Creativity

By Anna Gardner

A Black woman with long braided hair and glasses

In January 2024, Shanell Kitt, LMSW, assumed the role of director for the CONNECT (Continuous Engagement between Community and Clinic Treatment) program. As a licensed social worker and artist, she brings a unique perspective to her role, combining evidence-based therapy techniques with the power of self-expression.

“I started painting in 2014, which was also the first year I started my master’s in social work,” she says. “When I paint, I feel less stress, a sense of relief. I knew that I wanted to utilize art for my clients in a way that it has served me.”

In her previous roles at Breaking Ground and New Alternatives for Children, Shanell worked in mental health care for all ages, from children to older adults. The constant variable in her work was that she was always meeting people where they were. This drew her to CONNECT’s mission of making mental health care more accessible for people with serious mental illnesses or histories of substance use disorder, or who are formerly incarcerated, by meeting them where they are—both emotionally and geographically.

CONNECT social workers can provide therapy in a home, office, or hospital, or even walking down the street. The program offers a food pantry and activities from ceramics classes to anger-management groups to address multiple facets of wellbeing. CONNECT opened in 2022 at Henry Street Settlement’s Community Consultation Center as one of nine sites citywide.

Shanell joined the team as a senior clinician in January 2023. She says that feedback from CONNECT participants solidifies that the program’s approach works. “I hear from clients a lot that they feel safe here, and they want to keep coming back.” Shanell attributes their attitudes to her team’s strong communication with one another, making sure that clients are wrapped in support.

“Shanell wears many hats and brings various perspectives and orientations to her work,” says Kristin Hertel, vice president of Health & Wellness at Henry Street Settlement. “As a leader, Shanell models kindness and compassion for team members, community partners, and clients alike. Her years of experience in the field of social work have honed her organizational and clinical skills, and we are excited to watch the program grow creatively under her leadership.”

Outside of Henry Street Settlement, Shanell keeps busy as president of the Howard University School of Social Work Alumni Association and by teaching as an adjunct professor for the school. Both in her role at Henry Street and in her extracurriculars, she is excited to inspire the next generation of social workers.

Click here to learn more about CONNECT

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