The Salaam Community Wellness Center (SCWC)
evolved in response to the health and healthcare disparities that have long plagued Black and Latino communities in Chicago. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on people of color only heightened this awareness. At one point, Chicago’s South Side had the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the State of Illinois.
Our dedicated team came together with a shared commitment to address some of these longstanding disparities using a new approach. Since April 2020 we have made tremendous strides towards our goal of establishing an unique, innovative, integrative, holistic model of health and wellness in the Woodlawn neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago. We have focused our attention on addressing three critical areas of need: addiction treatment, mental health, and nutrition.
The integrative medicine model is one that marries the best of non-western medicine with the best of western medicine. It not only utilizes the tenets of the western disease model which focuses more on “disease and cure” but also those of non-western tenets of “prevention and wellness”. Each person will be evaluated for their unique physical, mental, and nutritional status. They will receive an individualized treatment plan which will help guide them to the appropriate care modalities.
Salaam Community Wellness Center practitioners are skilled in an integrative approach to addictions including the use of non-medication and medication treatments, deep-breathing and meditation. Our mental health and alternative medicine program will utilize Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), full-body and auricular acupuncture and other modalities such as yoga, tai chi, and chi gong. Knowing the importance of good nutrition and its impact on all aspects of health, every patient in the program will undergo a nutrition assessment and receive individual and group counseling. This will be coupled with an introduction to the community garden also known as “a holistic healing space” where they will have access to fresh produce. This garden space will serve as the grounds for some of the mind-body therapies.
In order to ensure that the health and healthcare transformation of our patients is performed in a truly holistic manner, we have to address their social determinants. These will include but not be limited to access to specialty care, housing, food access, transportation, employment opportunities, etc. It is the goal of Salaam Community Wellness Center to create a “social service hub” that will help to identify these determinants and assist our patients by connecting them to the appropriate resources to address them.
We are in the process of establishing an integrative acute and chronic care and case management program. Salaam Community Wellness Center is working to become a placement site to train master’s level social work student interns. The plan is incorporate these students into a program that would provide both virtual and on-site case and care management for patients with limited transportation or who are better served in their homes. Qualified care managers and Community Health Workers (CHW) will be at the center of coordinating care and services for patients and ensuring communication with our healthcare and social service providers.
We are currently in the process of rehabbing a 4500 sq. ft. space for our program that is housed in a formerly abandoned mixed-use building. Our organization is also in the process of acquiring two city-owned vacant lots to install and manage a community garden that will provide residents and participants in our program access to fresh produce.
Future plans are to expand our program to include transitional and emergency housing for individuals and families recovering from addictions and escaping domestic violence. We also plan to help establish programs which will address financial literacy, investing, workforce training, and entrepreneurship.
The goal of Salaam Community Wellness Center (SCWC) is to make a major impact in people’s lives and to establish a model that can be replicated in other communities throughout the U.S.