The Salaam Community Wellness Center (SCWC) evolved in response to the health and healthcare disparities that have long plagued Black and Brown 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 a unique, innovative, integrative, holistic model of health and wellness in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the Chicago’s South Side. We focus our attention on addressing four critical areas of need: culturally-responsive primary care, addiction treatment, mental health, and nutrition.
We have successfully rehabbed a 3300 sq. ft space which now houses 4 exam rooms, a multi-purpose room for our holistic therapies, a “Wellness Room” designed for meditation and counseling. Our 1500 sq. ft annex located in an adjacent space, is utilized for meetings, classes, events and other activities.
The integrative medicine model is one that marries the best of western medicine with the best of non-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 is evaluated for their unique physical, mental, and nutritional status. Special emphasis is also placed on identifying the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). These are life circumstances that impact one’s ability to achieve health and wellness. They include and are not exclusive to income, living wage employment, housing, food security and safe environments. Taking all of these factors into consideration, each person receives an individualized treatment plan which will help guide them to the appropriate care modalities and supportive services.
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 integrative medicine program utilizes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), full-body and auricular acupuncture and other modalities such as yoga, massage therapy, Reiki, sound therapy, tai chi, and chi gong.
Knowing the importance of good nutrition and its impact on all aspects of health, every patient in the program has access to nutrition assessments, individual and group counseling. To support our “Food as Medicine” approach, Salaam Community Wellness Center acquired two vacant lots on our “campus”. They have been transformed into an urban farm growing organic produce available for the community. We are in the second phase of the development of the “Paradise Garden”. It is currently being transformed into both an garden, educational and training center. Dedicated areas within the garden will be used as our “holistic healing space” for deep-breathing, meditation, yoga, Reiki, sound therapy and tai chi and chi gong classes.
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 social 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 will 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.
Future plans are to expand our program to develop the “Salaam Village”. This will include affordable permanent and transitional housing, programs focusing on living wage workforce training and jobs, senior care, early childhood education, youth and violence intervention programs, family support services, recreational and creative arts programs and expansion of our integrative mental health program. 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.