How has COVID 19 impacted your community?
COVID-19 has contributed to the ongoing – and in some cases escalating – healthcare and mental healthcare crisis in our partnering urban and rural communities. These youth and families had already been struggling with historical obstacles of structural violence, systemic racism, and behavioral health disparities. COVID-19 intensified the healthcare dangers while further depleting the scarcely available institutional resources.
How has your organization responded to the community need?
Our Urban Youth Trauma Center adopted a “pandemic pivot” policy to respond to the crisis while continuing the existing project partnership and activities. Key elements of this pivot entailed modifying our evidence-based practices to integrate COVID-specific contents and strategies as well as amplifying online resource access – including public health-oriented presentations to share information and motivation that combat misinformation and stigma for receiving mental health services.
What have we learned through this pandemic? Are there any lessons learned/advice that you can share?
One valuable lesson that we continue to learn is tapping into the explicit and sometimes obscure strengths of communities that are certainly in grave crisis but also demonstrate remarkable resiliency. In partnership with communities, we have continued to provide virtual trainings and services for our local agency providers who have subsequently been very successful in serving their local youth and families despite COVID-19 intensifying the health disparity challenges.
Can you mention a powerful and inspiring example that demonstrates community resilience?
Although there are many examples among our community partners that I’ve been inspired by during this pandemic, I’m especially encouraged by the work of the Cullen Center and Public School Resource Officers in Toledo, the Behavioral Health Systems in Baltimore, and the Khalil Center right here in Chicago. I have worked with each of them during this pandemic to reformulate and enhance their staff training content to incorporate COVID-19 topics and enhance their service protocols on a broad array of topics including virus protection, historical trauma, systemic racism, self-care, and faith-based activism.