CHHSM Member Seven Counties Services/Bellewood & Brooklawn Partner with Communities to Build on Strengths
This interesting case study from CHHSM member Seven Counties Services/Bellewood & Brooklawn offers a unique perspective into building community and capacity through partnerships.
Historically, Brooklawn is the oldest health and human service agency connected to the United Church of Christ. Brooklawn moved from orphanage to serving youth who have experienced trauma and mental health concerns. The mission of Brooklawn and the UCC has always been to care for those most vulnerable and ensure that God’s vision for a just, caring and compassionate world is lived out everyday.
With the partnership of Seven Counties Services/Bellewood & Brooklawn, staff is better able to serve the needs of children, families and communities. Seven Counties Services is a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic that offers a full range of mental and behavioral health services, substance abuse treatment, and intellectual and developmental disabilities services in a seven-county region in Kentucky. Counties served include Jefferson, Oldham, Bullitt, Shelby, Spencer, Trimble, and Henry. By expanding services for communities and families, we are able to improve the lives of the children that come to Brooklawn for care and treatment.
Within Seven Counties Services is a Regional Prevention Center (RPC) which brings together adult, and youth community volunteers with state and local policymakers, social service providers, educational staff, public health personnel, business and church leaders, and law enforcement representatives to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent substance misuse and violence. The proactive approach of the RPC focuses on dispelling misinformation within local communities while amplifying the positive voices of those who call those communities home.
One of these communities is Newburg, a Louisville, Ky., neighborhood spanning five square miles. Predominately consisting of lower-income African American families, the Newburg community faces higher violence and substance misuse incidents. With the help of a SAMSHA grant, Brittany Watkins, Ph.D., and John Broadus are working to influence this community from the inside out. Watkins says that approximately 90 percent of their work is advocacy, while 10 percent is dedicated to direct services. As a result of these efforts and a proactive approach, the goal is to build capacity and resilience for the community.
Such a goal requires Watkins and Broadus to follow best practices, including using evidence-based approaches to support healthy living. This means working with an equity lens and thinking critically about their work’s disparity impact. For example, a typical evidence-based intervention is termed “shoulder tap,” or interventions to combat adults buying alcohol or tobacco for underage children. This technique focuses on law enforcement tapping customers on the shoulder and reminding them of the legal ramifications of buying substances for minors. However, Watkins is aware of the current mistrust between communities of color and Louisville law enforcement. Therefore, they determined that although this strategy is effective at curbing underage drinking, this program would not be a good fit in the current climate.
Instead, Watkins and Broadus have invested grant funds to meet Newburg’s youth, where they spend most of their time, both physically and digitally. This campaign, now referred to as Newburg Strong, dodges the obstacles of Covid-19 while maximizing the impressions of positive messaging throughout the community. Local bus shelters once tarnished by graffiti are now covered with posters showing the benefits of a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle. Targeted social media ads on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok fill computer screens and mobile devices with words of encouragement. The voices of hope sound on local radio stations and favorite streaming channels such as Youtube and Spotify.
Along with these efforts, Broadus continues to work with youth in the Newburg community and notes that many of them have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as well as firsthand experiences with gun violence and substance misuse. Afterward, these youth often fail to address their grief or trauma, which perpetuates the cycle of violence and addiction. This team continues to work with the entire community to build resilience and partner with the clinical teams at Seven Counties Services to provide direct assistance to individuals in need.
Advocacy is listening to a community, amplifying the strengths of that community, and ensuring the community has access to needed services. It is not just the work of trained prevention specialists like Watkins and Broadus but the work of a church that is hungry to fulfill its mission. This act of service doesn’t ask “What’s wrong with you?” but instead further strengthens, “What’s strong within you!” This is how we build a just, caring and compassionate world for all God’s people.
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