Chicago partnership aims to transform mental health system

A bold strategy to help the next generation in Chicago is getting global attention and serious cash.

A partnership between a Chicago hospital and a community organization is a finalist in a challenge to create an equitable future for children, families and communities across the globe.

For mentors with Communities United, one goal is to give young people a voice, as they meet in groups in five Chicago neighborhoods to talk about the trauma facing Black and brown communities.

"They really do have a voice, they really do know what are the issues that are challenging now, they know a lot about the solutions, and what they need now is just the guidance," said Laqueanda Reneau, Community Organizer at Communities United.

Lurie Children's Hospital has joined the work at Communities United, creating a partnership designed to transform the mental health system and support community healing with youth leading the way.

"Put them to work solving the problems in their community, knowing that they will experience personal healing, but they will also contribute to the healing of their community," said Dr. John T. Walkup of Lurie Children’s Hospital.


The partnership between Communities United and Lurie Children's Hospital was picked as a finalist in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity 2030 Challenge. The Foundation plans to award $90 million to those with "bold solutions to drive an equitable future for all" that will "transform racialized systems where they live."

The Chicago team was awarded a million dollar grant and could get up to $20 million over eight years if they are picked as a winner.

"Can you do something transformative for individuals that then transforms the community and that gets sustained because of its momentum? That's the coolest part about that this project for me," said Dr. Walkup.

While Reneau says, "the goal is to change generations. I have two young boys, and that's my goal, is to change their generation."

Communities United plus Lurie would like to spread this work throughout Chicago and even beyond.