This Is Why We Are Dying

As an active Christian and IMAN collaborator, I’ve had opportunities to join my Muslim sisters and brothers for many Iftar dinners over the years but none as powerful as the one I attended on the first day of Ramadan at IMAN.

Monday night I joined a group of IMAN staff, leaders, and community members who gathered at IMAN’s Health Center with State Senator Jacqueline Collins to discuss Senate Resolution 98—an effort to call out and curtail the deplorable number of preventable deaths in Illinois’ prisons. Some evidence suggests that one third of all deaths recorded within the Illinois Department of Corrections between 2016 and 2017 were preventable.

Beyond the discussion of the Senate Resolution, I heard the powerful and unforgettable stories of IMAN organizers and leaders discuss their harrowing struggles with health in and outside of prison. At one point in the conversation Nasir Blackwell, a full-time IMAN organizer, recalled the grueling deaths he witnessed while in the infirmary and spoke of the hundreds of legal complaints he filed to bring legal attention to these cases. “No one is listening…this is why we are dying!” he exclaimed.

Nasir is right; not enough people are listening. Justice-involved individuals face significant physical and mental health needs and confront a variety of social challenges. As a public health researcher, my work has focused on studying, advocating for and working with organizations fighting to close the health disparities crippling black and brown communities. I also know that the circumstances contributing to the deterioration of health and wellness in low-income areas directly correlates to the mass incarceration of many of our dear brothers and sisters. We know that when these individuals come home, they are faced with even more trauma, returning to under-resourced neighborhoods where more violence and high recidivism is a very probable outcome. In other words: organizations like IMAN and leaders like Nasir understand the link between the conditions in and outside prisons and the impact they have on our communities.

IMAN is forging the way toward building a holistic model to strengthen the link between issues dealing with health, wellness and healing in the inner-city.

I’ve been an active supporter with my time and resources and I hope you join me.

Take action and help this dynamic organization meet its “One-Link, One Chain”: Ramadan Drive goal to raise $1,000,000.

Peace,

Dr. Angela Odoms-Young

IMAN Recognized as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike

We are pleased to announce that IMAN’s Health Center has been officially designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike! The rigorous effort toward obtaining such a significant status has been nearly a decade in the making. With your support and the hard work of our dedicated staff, IMAN’s Health Center has demonstrated the compassion and high-quality care for patients that impressed federal government evaluators. Health Center Look- Alikes provide services consistent with federally qualified health centers, ensuring health care for all, regardless of ability to pay.

Over the past two decades, IMAN has expanded its medical service to include counseling and dentistry. Now, we are being recognized by the federal government for the community-responsiveness and quality of the entire health program. Such recognition means we’ll have access to additional training and expertise through state and national agencies. Additionally we will become part of Chicago’s larger health safety net able to serve more patients and expand pharmaceutical, dental and mental health services.

FQHC Look-Alikes were established to increase access to quality care in underserved communities by allowing providers like IMAN, that do not receive a federal grant, to participate in the federal program. As an FQHC Look-Alike, IMAN is eligible for increased Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. However, those reimbursements do not cover uninsured individuals, who make up nearly 50% of our patient population.

This designation is a powerful affirmation of our Health Center’s quality and growth. It is also a resounding call to action, as we continue to raise the funds necessary to fully cover the costs of uninsured patient care, fostering health, wellness and healing for thousands more individuals across the inner-city.

This exciting milestone would not be possible without your prayers and generosity, and we are immensely grateful for the long-standing support of many individuals and families, and of several foundations over the years, including, Islamic Relief USA, Chicago Community Trust and Affiliates, Grant Healthcare Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, VNA Foundation, Field Foundation, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Healthy Communities Foundation, The Crown Family, Polk Bros Foundation, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, and Zakat Foundation of America.

New ‘Health Navigators’ Work to Increase Healthcare Access

IMAN is pleased to announce the addition of a new team of Health Navigators to its growing Health Center staff. In collaboration with Chicago Public Schools, Health Navigators will help to ensure that local parents and children are enrolled in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

IMAN trained two current staff members, Medical Assistant Rosa Mandujano, who serves as a bilingual English-Spanish navigator, and Organizer Robert Jones to take on this crucial role. Additionally, Donica Ousley was recruited and hired as a full-time Health Navigator. As a part of their certification process, the trio completed nearly 100 hours of comprehensive training over a four-week period of 4 weeks.

Currently, many millions of Americans remain uninsured, including over 900,000 Illinois residents living without health insurance. Nationwide, ACA marketplace signups so far in 2018 are occuring at a rate 3.7 percent lower than last year’s enrollment period, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Amid steep reductions in federal funding for healthcare outreach and specialized community support like health navigators—not to mention a shortened enrollment period and a climate of political uncertainty surrounding the healthcare laws—IMAN remains committed to
fighting for the health and wellness of Chicagoland communities. Our Health Navigator team is a significant step forward as we continue building trust and relationships with families who need and deserve access to healthcare.

Local Seniors Learn Self-Defense

This month’s Senior Wellness Luncheon hosted by the Health Center, focused on providing senior citizens with ways to protect themselves in dangerous situations. Ramy Daoud, owner and head coach of Phoenix Sports Empire in Naperville, introduced the seniors to basic self-defense techniques during the hour-long session. Seniors learned various blocking methods and proper movements to handle and escape a potential attacker. Those in attendance were excited to try something new and felt that learning self-defense skills is extremely useful in today’s environment.

“I have been attacked from behind,” said Jean Davis a 70-year-old attendee who travels to IMAN from suburban Lansing to attend the monthly luncheons, “Nowadays they are attacking everybody, they don’t care.”

The self-defense lesson also included methods for seniors with limited mobility like Rosemary Meriweather, a 66-year-old grandmother using a rollator walker who feared the hands-on session would not be useful to someone like her, “He showed me what I can do”.

Meriweather has been attending IMAN’s luncheons for over a year and says she enjoys coming each month and always leaves with something informative—from recipes to life tips, like how to protect herself and her family. “I am raising two granddaughters and I’m going to teach them some of these moves.”

Self-defense is extremely important, specifically for older adults as they are seen as a vulnerable population. Participants were asked topics of interest and self-defense rated amongst the highest. Instructor Daoud, who has been doing martial arts for 25 years and currently works as a professional fighter, says it is a skill everyone should have and he looks forward to returning to IMAN to lead more sessions.

The senior luncheon highlights a sense of purpose, feelings of belongings, increased self-esteem, confidence and improved physical and mental health. The luncheon allows participants to nurture their soul by socializing, keeping active and building connections with others in the community.