Lurie Children's Hospital and Communities United win $10 million to transform mental health for youth of color

Lurie Children’s Hospital and Communities United win $10 million to transform mental health for youth of color

This time last year, Communities United, a survivor-led intergenerational racial justice organization in Chicago, set out to change the landscape of youth mental health with help from Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Chicago. The goal was to develop a holistic plan for youth that shifts the conversation about mental health from one that focuses on individual treatment to one that supports community healing.

Their work on this path for years culminated in “Healing Through Justice: A Community-Led Breakthrough Strategy for Healing-Centered Communities” – a 10-year roadmap to foster youth-led strategies on community healing that center youth leadership on creating institutional change on mental health. The plan placed the medical institution and community organization in a finalist position in the WK Kellogg Foundation’s 2030 Racial Equity Challenge – a global competition announced in 2020, which awarded a total of $90 million for help build and develop concrete ideas for transformative change in systems and institutions that uphold racial inequality. The challenge received 1,453 submissions from 72 countries. In September 2021, the Kellogg Foundation announced the top 10 finalists.

While traditional medical approaches rely heavily on treatment, Healing Through Justice (developed by Communities United and informed by the stories of hundreds of young people who have experienced personal and collective trauma and healing while taking social action to address issues that affect them and their families) focuses on supporting the leadership and action of black and brown youth in Chicago to create new pathways to recovery and positive health outcomes for themselves and their communities.

Over the past year, Communities United and Lurie Children’s have gone through a multi-level review and feedback process involving peer applicants and multidisciplinary experts from around the world to bring their plan to scale through a grant. million dollars from the WK Kellogg Foundation. The duo have now received $10 million from the foundation to turn their plan into practice. The money will be paid over eight years to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the WK Kellogg Foundation in 2030.

Laqueanda Reneau, a community organizer with Communities United, said recognition and money show others believe in their work and want to support young people.

“When we shared the news with our youngsters, they were jumping out of their seats screaming,” Reneau said. “This is a global competition that wants to support young people and their leadership. The work we do encourages the voices of young people, to say that lived experiences matter and that those lived experiences are something they can create and change if they wish.

Bezaleia “Bezzy” Reed, 18, a young Communities United leader and sister of the late Caleb Reed, an advocate for racial justice in the education system who died in 2020 from gun violence, said her brother would be surprised and excited about the amount of grant awarded to the organization.

“I can’t wait to see what’s next and to be able to continue what we’re doing and to see that we’re supported. I’m glad people like what we do. Now we know we are capable of anything,” Reed said. With the goal of becoming a teacher, Reed is approaching her first anniversary with Communities United. “After he passed I wanted to get more involved with Communities United because I saw a passion in Caleb and was interested. I would describe myself as a witness to the work.

The $10 million grant will be used to: Invest in the development of 3,000 young people as leaders in the community who will inform new strategies for Lurie Children’s and other health systems to support youth-led healing and community centered; bring together a network of community partners to support young leaders and the implementation of new mental wellness strategies; document and evaluate the new model that supports community-led healing to improve health outcomes in communities of color. Dr. John Walkup, chair of the department of psychiatry at Lurie Children and principal investigator of Kellogg’s proposal, said he hopes the model will be disseminated to church groups, schools and youth organizations around the world.

“It’s the dream,” he said. “Part of the work in the first year is to codify this, to put it on paper so that anyone who picks it up and wants to do it understands exactly what they need to do in order to reproduce the results. That’s also going to be part of the project — fleshing it out. It needs to turn into something that has not just a manual, but guides and strategies that will allow it to spread and be successful elsewhere too.

The Healing Through Justice initiative builds on the 11-year partnership between Communities United and Lurie Children’s. The work on the Healing Through Justice partnership is a fundamental part of Lurie Children’s Community Health Implementation Strategy 2023-2025. Recently, the duo collaborated on the release of Changing the Pace of Mental Health, a youth-led participatory action research project that identified systemic inequities and the normalization of trauma as key drivers of deteriorating mental health. mental health in young men of color.

“It’s youth-focused, it’s about grassroots racial equity,” Walkup said. “This is a group (Communities United) that is not doing it under this grant. They’ve been doing this thing forever. They know how. And we’re just taking a few big notches with the grant. Positive programming takes so long to develop. But there’s something about this idea that if you’ve been through a tough time in your life and you’re starting to organize your life and you’re going to do something special in your own life for your family and your community because of what happened to you, this idea gets so many different people excited.

“The power of this idea is highly contagious. Instead of it happening by accident, we want people to understand that you can make it happen, that you can get intentional with it and really make a difference in this world that way.

drockett@chicagotribune.com

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