Delivering valuable health and wellness programming

Even with the ongoing pandemic and challenges of gathering in person, UChicago Medicine continued its health-focused programs and events to deal with the community's top health priorities.

Southland RISE violence prevention and trauma resiliency grants

Supporting grassroots solutions to a public health crisis

In 2021, Southland RISE (Resilience Initiative to Strengthen and Empower) awarded $150,000 to 15 grassroots organizations for their summer trauma resiliency and violence prevention programs. This was a 50% increase over the previous year's awards. These programs are centered on such activities as reading, education, training in conflict resolution, digital storytelling, community building, mentoring, teaching music, sports and more.

Southland RISE

Southland RISE is a partnership started in 2019 by Advocate Health Care and UChicago Medicine. The two medical systems are working with community partners to strengthen and bring together violence recovery and trauma care services on the South Side and across the south suburbs. The work was inspired by Chicago HEAL — Hospital Engagement, Action and Leadership — a project begun by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin to deal with the effects of violence in the Chicago area.

Through Southland RISE, 30 community-based organizations on the South Side have been given $350,000 for their summer youth programs since 2019.

2021 Grant Recipients

Alliance of the Southeast (ASE) provides leadership training to African American and Latino youth (ages 12 to 19) to give them a voice in the community, take part in positive activities and bring them together around anti-violence initiatives.

As part of the summer program, the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) gave those who took part the skills to increase their work to make a difference in the life of their community, take ownership of their communities and solve problems to deal with neighborhood issues.

The mission of Bronzeville-based Centers for New Horizons is "to develop the capacities of individuals and families to become self-reliant, to improve the quality of their lives, and to participate in rebuilding their community." Centers' summer program placed justice-involved youth in summer jobs and provides vaccination education in the community.

The Chicago Survivors Youth Program provides clinical and therapeutic support to Chicago youth who have lost a family member from homicide and their caregivers. Working with DePaul University and its Education and Counseling Center, Chicago Survivors hosted "The Power of Storytelling." This was a six-week summer program to deal with the complex trauma and grief of survivor families affected by homicide.

Fearless Leading by the Youth (F.L.Y.) works to empower youth and millennials to be community organizers and leaders. Funding from the Southland RISE grant helped to support F.L.Y.'s Healing and Building program in the Woodlawn community, connecting residents affected by trauma with counseling services, trauma-informed care, social-emotional learning workshops, anger management workshops and more. The group also turned empty lots into gardens and gathering spaces.

The Girls Like Me Project’s (GLMP) mission is to help urban African American girls, ages 11 to 16, overcome stigmas and negative stereotypes to become influential, independent digital storytellers. The summer program — Soul Power Healing Summer — focused on digital storytelling as a tool of connectivity and leadership. Twenty people who took part were trained as digital storytellers to document life for Black girls after COVID-19.

Grand Boulevard Prevention Services (GBPS) works to prevent underage drinking, substance abuse and violence among youth. With the Southland RISE grant, GBPS hosted community events that supported messages and activities to prevent violence and substance abuse.

Guitars Over Guns Organization supports Haven Studios in Chicago's Oakland neighborhood, a place that supports teaching music and mentoring. The community-based recording studio is no cost to underserved youth, ages 14 to 21, from South Side communities who seek a supportive community and mentoring through the arts. Workshops include cinematography, music licensing, mental health group therapy and more.

Serving the neighborhoods of Austin, West Garfield Park and Back of the Yards, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago promotes nonviolence with street outreach, victim advocacy, case management, workforce development and community organizing activities.

For the summer program, the group trained a team of eight street outreach workers in the Back of the Yards neighborhood to work within the community, respond to shootings and have conflict mediations to prevent violence.

Kids Off The Block’s mission is to provide at-risk, low-income youth with positive options to combat gangs, drugs, truancy, violence and the juvenile justice system. The group hosted hundreds of students from the Chicago Metro area in its Summer Basketball League that has existed since 2013. The goals are to keep youth safe and involve them in activities such as group mentoring sessions, skill training and basketball.

The mission of Ladies of Virtue is to instill purpose, passion and perseverance in girls ages 9 to 18, as they help prepare them for college, careers and to become agents of change in their communities.

The Southland RISE grant helped the group provide mental health counseling to 50 South Side girls. It also had workshops for parents that focused on trauma-informed care, adolescent mental health, social-emotional development in young people and more. The summer program also provided training in conflict resolution and restorative justice.

Lost Boyz’s mission is to decrease violence, improve social and emotional conditions, and provide financial opportunities for the youth in Chicago's South Shore community. The Southland RISE grant supported the Successful Youth Leaders (SYL) program. The program uses baseball to build trauma resilience and improve development and leadership skills.

Over eight weeks during the summer, Public Equity hosted online community meals to cultivate community resilience and foster violence education in Englewood. Ten men from conflicting groups were invited to take part in online peace talks as they cooked and shared meals. Public Equity provided gift cards and meal kits for those who took part to prepare a meal at home.

The mission of the St. Titus One Youth Anti-Violence and Mentoring Program is to provide a positive, safe place that supports education so youth can reach their life's potential. The summer program offered Late Night Youth Nights, artistic expression contests and basketball tournaments, and ended in a No Crime Day-Chicago event on August 7.

The mission of W.A.T.C.H. is to create a place of learning for youth, building self-worth, character and passion to live successfully. The summer's One Block, One Porch, One Book Program helped youth to read up to seven books during the seven weeks of the program, and to keep track of the resulting self-esteem and well-being.

The Woodlawn Community Reentry Project Chicago (WCRPC) promotes the educational well-being of school-age persons outside of the public education mainstream and works with those who come into contact with the juvenile and adult justice systems.

The summer program worked to increase re-enrollment in school, delivered education enrichment in safe community spaces and used street outreach to reduce gun violence arrests and charges after release.

Violence Recovery Program

Providing hope and healing for patients affected by intentional violence

Increased violence, coupled with economic distress and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, are disproportionately impacting Chicago's communities — particularly on the South Side.

UChicago Medicine’s Violence Recovery Program (VRP) is the only hospital-based violence intervention program in Chicago. UHI began the VRP in May 2018, at the same time UChicago Medicine opened its Level 1 Adult Trauma Center. The VRP provides wrap-around services to victims of intentional violence. Services begin when first admitted and go on after leaving the hospital to support overall recovery and lessen risks of reinjury.

Fiscal 2021 outcomes:
  • The VRP worked with 2,189 patients, 937 families and more than 263 children.
  • 43.2% of patients were given one or more kinds of support, including referrals for housing, employment, food access, victim's compensation and mental health services.

The violence recidivism rate is less than 1% (return rate to our trauma center).

Violence Recovery Specialists

Helping patients recover from violence and trauma

Geri Pettis, MA-CMHC, is a violence recovery specialist who works with pediatric patients through UChicago Medicine's Violence Recovery Program (VRP). Since May 2020, she has seen 272 patients who are mostly children and teenage victims of violence.

Pettis, who grew up on Chicago's South Side, says her love of children and her family background help explain why she does this work.

"This is the kind of work you wish you did not have to do, but it is so rewarding," Pettis said. "Our patients receive case management and crisis intervention services. We connect families to mental health counseling. We take a holistic approach to make sure they are safe and not reinjured."

Read more about Geri and her work here:

Geri Pettis
Geri Pettis, MA-CMHC, Violence Recovery Specialist

Violence Recovery Program welcomes new director

In November 2021, UChicago Medicine named Franklin N. Cosey-Gay, PhD, MPH, the new Director of the Violence Recovery Program. He has 20 years of work and research experience in this field. He was also the Executive Director of the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

Franklin N. Cosey-Gay
Franklin N. Cosey-Gay, PhD, MPH, Director, Violence Recovery Program
Block Hassenfeld Casdin (BHC) Collaborative for Family Resilience

Dedicated to helping children and families overcome effects of trauma

UChicago Medicine's Violence Recovery Program receives funding from the BHC (Block Hassenfeld Casdin) Collaborative for Family Resilience. The BHC Collaborative provides personalized holistic care for children and families, particularly for children who are the direct victim or a witness to a close family member's trauma. With BHC's support, 2,117 patients and/or families (39% of total seen) received one or more interventions (through October 2021).

  • 263 received housing interventions, including housing referrals (41)
  • 300 received employment interventions, including employment referrals (114)
  • 71 received food interventions, including food referrals (37)
  • 111 received education interventions
  • 1,035 received victim's compensation support
  • 781 received mental health interventions, including mental health referrals to community partners (179)

In 2021, the BHC Collaborative provided $100,000 in funding to the following community-based organizations to support their violence prevention and trauma recovery efforts:

  • Bright Star Community Outreach
  • Centers for New Horizons
  • Gary Comer Youth Center
The Block Hassenfeld Casdin
"The Block Hassenfeld Casdin (BHC) Collaborative is integral to combating violence and promoting healing in Chicago. If this program didn’t exist, I can’t even imagine what would have happened for the South Side, for our patients."
Brenda Battle, UChicago Medicine
Liaisons in Care (LinC)

Community Health Workers are helping patients with chronic disease in their homes and communities

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are community members trained to work with patients and their families. They provide healthcare support at home, help lessen barriers to care and improve patients' overall health and wellness. The Liaisons in Care (LinC) program's CHWs support patients with heart failure, adolescent sickle cell disease, stroke, pediatric asthma, hypertension and diabetes. Since the program's launch in 2021, CHWs have encountered a total of 1,140 patients.

UChicago Medicine awarded $400,000 in grant funding to the following community-based organizations to help increase the number of CHWs serving the South Side:

YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago
Equal Hope
Community Builders
The Renaissance Collaborative.

The grant funding was made possible by AbbVie which donated $8 million to UChicago Medicine in 2020 to support CHW growth on Chicago’s South Side.

These organizations and the LinC CHWs meet together monthly for presentations and panels about important health topics.

Community Health Worker Taffrine Drain provides asthma education to a young patient.
Grant Funding in 2021

Urban Health Initiative addresses health priorities through grant dollars

The Urban Health Initiative (UHI) is committed to addressing key health priorities on the South Side of Chicago. With grant dollars awarded in 2021, the UHI was able to continue programs, such as Liaisons in Care (LinC) and the South Side Pediatric Asthma Center (SSPAC).

In 2021, the UHI was awarded almost $5.55 million in funding to support its health priority programming, which is in addition to UChicago Medicine's community benefit investment.