The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago has awarded a $32,274 grant to Northeastern Illinois University to fund the You Are Not Alone (YNA) Initiative in support of immigrant and refugee mental health across Illinois communities. The initiative is managed by Assistant Professor of Social Work Aimee Hilado.
In 2016, during the post-election period, calls to Illinois and national mental health and social service agency hotlines dramatically increased. Children and families from a variety of groups—refugee, immigrant, undocumented, LGBTQ and religious and racial minorities—were reporting high levels of anxiety, despondency, fear and emotional stress. The YNA Initiative was created to connect these individuals with mental health resources and provide training to professionals working within these communities.
"This partnership between Lurie Children's Hospital and the Northeastern Social Work program pairs a national leader in supporting the health and well-being of children and youth with experts in culturally sensitive, community-based practice with vulnerable populations,” Hilado said. “My passion and experience has always been in the area of early childhood and adult mental health with immigrants and refugees, and this grant gives me the opportunity to support building a workforce of professionals—both clinical and non-clinical—to work within this exact area of need and population.”
Hilado, co-writer and co-editor of the book “Models for Practice With Immigrants and Refugees: Collaboration, Cultural Awareness and Integrative Theory,” will use the grant to develop and disseminate curriculum as part of the YNA Initiative. Her materials will be used to train clinicians and community workers on best practices for working with trauma-exposed immigrants and refugees through monthly workshops.
This work expands on the capacity-building efforts she has already done since January 2017 through the Chicago Is With You Task Force, for which Hilado serves as the Mental Health First Responder Coordinator. In this role, she leads a group of more than 50 volunteer licensed mental health professionals who are assigned to various posts throughout the city, including O’Hare International Airport and various immigrant- and refugee-serving programs.
Hilado said that the work also is in line with the emphasis of Northeastern’s new Master of Social Work program, which was designed to train graduate-level students to work in trauma-exposed communities and with vulnerable immigrant and refugee children and families. Students will be able to attend the upcoming trainings alongside professionals in the community, further enhancing their learning opportunities in the program.
“I am grateful to be surrounded by incredible Social Work faculty whose expertise in community practice, policy, schools, research and trauma will inform my work,” she said. “We have a collective responsibility to support our most vulnerable members of society, and this partnership is a wonderful step in that direction.”
Top photo: Aimee Hilado
Above photo: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (Courtesy of Lurie Children’s Hospital)