Tanya Wade, clinical director for Association House of Chicago, received the Advancing Minority Mental Health award | Provided by Association House of Chicago

The Association House of Chicago was awarded the 2023 Advancing Minority Mental Health honor by the American Psychiatric Association Foundation in recognition of its mental health programs. The West Side-based nonprofit was one of seven community-based organizations to receive this recognition and an award of $5,000 at the end of June. The award recognizes programs and efforts dedicated to raising awareness and improving access to mental health in unserved and underserved communities.  

“This grant will go toward our relentless effort to continue breaking down barriers and providing vital support to those who need it most,” said Juan Carlos Linares, president and CEO of the Association House of Chicago, in a press release.  

In 1977, the nonprofit started its first state-funded behavioral health program to help adults in need of mental health services. Since then, the organization came to understand mental health could not be addressed separately from other health needs.  

“When we talked about mental health, we’re just talking about health altogether,” said Tanya Wade, clinical director. “So, we have a lot of programming here, particularly within behavior health, but globally within our agency that addresses all social determinants of health and bridges the [health disparity] gap.” 

Today, behavioral health is one of the five main focus areas of the nonprofit that started as a settlement house in the late 1800s to serve immigrants of European origin. With the increasing needs of immigrant communities and population shifts, the nonprofit expanded its array of community and social services to include child welfare, community health, workforce development and educational programs. Last year, the nonprofit served over 3,000 individuals from Black and Latino communities.   

“We all know that in Black and Brown communities, our folks are not necessarily seen and what I mean by seen, is recognized for their humanity and what they bring to the table, the strength, pride and culture that we have,” Wade said. “So being able to work at an agency to provide services to the folks that are underserved within the community is important.” 

For its behavioral health programs, Association House provides an array of evidence-based services focused on treating individuals with dignity, cultural awareness and respect.  

“We have an interdisciplinary team that includes the primary care provider, we have our nurses, we have a psychiatrist, medical assistant case managers and other clinical specialists that work with patients,” she said.  

Additionally, the organization provides wraparound services in areas like health, housing, food security, job placement and education.  

Other services include providing bilingual and trauma-informed case management to individuals with mental health disorders, mental health counseling and substance use counseling. All services help bridge the health gap of community members and begin to address intergenerational trauma, Wade said, adding it is important to have bilingual staff who can listen and understand participants.  

“Cultural competence is a cornerstone of effective mental health care,” said Rawle Andrews Jr., Esq., executive director of the APA Foundation, in a press release. “The APA Foundation is proud to support the strong work of Association House of Chicago as they continue to meet the mental and emotional needs of diverse multicultural communities during their second century of operations.” 

The nonprofit also trains community members to act as health educators. Through the Public Health AmeriCorps. program participants help raise awareness about healthy behaviors and teach others how to navigate health care.  

“Right now, we are actually looking for AmeriCorps volunteers so I would say that if any AmeriCorps volunteers want to come to us, we’re a great place where they can learn and really give back,” Wade said.  

As its name denotes, the nonprofit also provides safe and supportive spaces for people with mental illness. Dulcinea provides a structured living setting for adults with mental illness or co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders transitioning from a nursing facility to live independently. In the program, they develop skills to live independently while receiving adequate medical and psychiatric care.   

The Drop-In Center provides a supportive gathering space for adults in the nonprofit’s mental health and other programs.  

“It’s really a place where participants can build friendships they can increase or enhance their skills, whether it be mindfulness, computer literacy or finding a job,” Wade said. “They can come in whenever they want to watch TV and just chill out if they want to.” Facilities in the drop-in center include a TV room, game room, arts and computer room.  

“We do community mental health, and in community mental health, services are really hands-on, really, really meeting participants where they are,” Wade said.