By now, most of us have been inundated by the emails, text messages, and Twitter threads that have attempted to put us all on alert about the pandemic coronavirus, COVID-19. As we join our local elected officials and health departments in encouraging people to take CDC guidelines seriously during this time, we also acknowledge the vast disparities between communities that crises like these never fail to make apparent.
The one thing grassroots organizations like IMAN know is that moments like these are always stark reminders that the work we do to heal, nurture, inspire, and to bring our communities together to confront injustice, is that much more critical in these times. Mandated calls to socially distance our most vulnerable people from the individuals and institutions they rely on for their health and wellness stands to further deteriorate the already anemic social fabric in communities like the ones IMAN organizes in Chicago and Atlanta. In response, IMAN staff, leaders, and community members are doing what they do best: fighting the fear and isolation these new conditions may cause people and finding creative new ways to continue to engage and connect with the people who rely on this organization.
While we, like most other institutions, have temporarily halted all public programs and gatherings, we are putting in place targeted ways to keep our communities connected:
Organizers are conducting regular check-in calls with leaders and community members;
Health Center staff is converting most in-person visits to tele-health encounters;
We are working with our community of artists to develop creative virtual opportunities both to inspire and help people cope with their circumstances but also to commission meaningful artistic performances and engagements;
Our Green ReEntry cohort is working remotely, with virtual check-ins and engagement opportunities;
Care packages are being constructed and will be delivered to our local senior living facilities, IMAN leadership homes, and community members;
IMAN’s street outreach team is still working to keep peace on the blocks throughout our neighborhoods in a time of even more heightened anxiety and tension;
And we are constantly devising ways to bring our various communities in closer proximity to each other’s experiences, especially as we edge closer to Ramadan.
Institutions like IMAN were built for these very moments—but even so, the ability to strengthen and continue this work amid the onslaught of new challenges and roadblocks relies on the continual prayers and support of each and every one of you. We simply cannot do this work without you. Stay tuned for ways that you can continue to support us in this moment and help us stay connected, even in a time of social distancing.
Peace and Blessings,
IMAN Staff & Board
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.
Dr. Angela Odoms-Young
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.