Dr. Caroline Vessel, CEO of I Am Able Family Development, a North Lawndale-based mental health treatment center, 3410 W. Roosevelt Rd., said she wants to do more than help victims of trauma get better. She wants to see them thrive. 

“That’s very important to us, because we don’t want to be in the place of just surviving, because you can’t get ahead in survival mode,” she said.

Vessel is working to establish the Trauma Healing and Restorative Intervention toward Visions of Excellence (THRIVE), a network of four community treatment centers. Her organization has secured funding from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and is applying for state funding in order to open the centers. She’s also getting input from trauma survivors, mental health professionals, community residents and elected officials. 

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority oversees several federal and state grant programs, including the Trauma Recovery Centers program. According to its website, the idea is to address all of the survivors needs — from housing to medical care.

Vessel made the announcement a meeting of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council’s Health & Wellness subcommittee on April 21. In a follow-up interview, she said that a committee of stakeholders is already working on the details,and I Am Able plans to hold public online meetings to get community input throughout May. Vessel would like to have her operation up and running by next year, although the exact timeline will depend on when they secure the funding and how much funding they will get.

I Am Able was established to help African-American and Latino families deal with substance abuse, family dysfunction and other issues. Vessel said that THRIVE is an extension of that mission. 

“Part of my purpose for being on Earth is to rescue my African American people out of ongoing trauma,” she said. “We realize that healing has to start with us, because people who perpetrate trauma aren’t going to make it happen.”

During the April 22 meeting, Vessel said she would like to set up one treatment center in Austin, one center in West Garfield Park, one center in East Garfield Park and one center in North Lawndale, so that people won’t have to leave their community to get help. 

Vessel said that I Am Able put together a planning committee that includes survivors, social service agencies, law enforcement agencies, victim services, schools, healthcare providers, mental/behavioral health providers and area elected officials from different levels of government. They are also putting together focus groups in each community where Vessel hopes to locate a THRIVE center, and they will be hosting online town halls in May. 

During the April 21 meeting, Vessel said that the centers definitely wouldn’t be based at I Am Able’s existing facility in North Lawndale, because there isn’t enough space. 

In a follow-up interview, Vessel said that her organization is working with elected officials to identify spaces they can lease in existing buildings or lots where they can build something new.