Vote for the 2023 Collaborative Impact Award by December 4th, 2023.

Since 2021, the Washtenaw Health Initiative’s Collaborative Impact Award has recognized local collaborations that have made a significant positive impact on community health.

Health collaboration

Collaborations between organizations working on similar goals can break down silos and enable organizations to achieve more than they could alone. 

In the award’s first year, Washtenaw Health Initiative members chose Hoteling the Homeless. This collaboration between the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC), the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH), and many others provided safe, supportive housing in hotels during the fall and winter of 2020 to 2021 to protect individuals experiencing homelessness from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, members selected the Recovery Opioid Overdose Team, a program of Home of New Vision that supports those who have experienced overdose within 24-72 hours of the incident. ROOT works with several partner organizations, including Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, Huron Valley Ambulance, Trinity Health Ann Arbor, Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan School of Nursing, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, and other local emergency departments.

The 2023 nominees include: 

  • Breaking COVID-19 mortality trends with grassroots partnerships
  • Reducing community violence
  • Collaborating to address the behavioral health needs of young Black men and boys
  • Reducing stigma around medication for opioid use disorder

Read more about the projects below and vote for the collaboration you find most exemplary.

Note: Voting is open to anyone who works for a WHI member organization and is confidential. One vote per person. Voting ends on December 4th, 2023!

Breaking COVID-19 mortality trends with grassroots partnerships

In July 2023, the Washtenaw County Health Department published a COVID-19 Mortality Report on the first three years of the pandemic. The report shows the impact of the many partnerships and grassroots efforts that Washtenaw County engaged in during the pandemic, with the goal of reducing health disparities and saving lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected communities of color more severely, as seen by the higher toll taken in those communities early in the pandemic. African American/Black residents were almost twice as likely to die than white residents. The Health Department worked with local, trusted organizations to bring information, testing, vaccines, masks, and other resources into those communities, and by 2022 the COVID-19 death rate was equivalent for Black/African Americans and whites in Washtenaw County.

As one example of a grassroots partnership, the Health Department worked with Mexiquenses en Michigan, an organization led by people in the Latinx community, to ensure culturally appropriate services reached those who needed them. Following the lead of Latinx organizers, the organizations planned and implemented COVID-19 and Flu vaccination events, distributed safety supplies, and brought other health resources directly to Latinx communities.

Health Department staff, health care workers, community partners, and volunteers worked countless hours to respond to the pandemic. These efforts, and in particular the partnerships with trusted organizations in communities of color, may have saved hundreds of lives.

Nominated Organization: Washtenaw County Health Department

Compared to the COVID-related death rate for Michigan residents overall, the rate in Washtenaw County is less than half. As of March 2023, Washtenaw County has had a lower death rate from COVID than every other county in Michigan since the beginning of the pandemic. The report found that Washtenaw County would have suffered 631 additional deaths if the county had had the average Michigan death rate.

Partnerships with organizations in communities of color had a significant impact in particular. Black/African American residents of Washtenaw County had a COVID death rate 50% lower than the Michigan rate for Black/African Americans, and equivalent to the death rate for white residents by 2022. The rate for Asian Americans in Washtenaw County was 70% lower than the statewide average. Although we do not have a statewide comparison, the mortality rate in our Latinx population was lower than the white population in Washtenaw.

Washtenaw County’s low COVID-related death rate may be due to higher levels of wealth and education in the county. But we also saw our community come together in remarkable ways to respond to the pandemic, and especially to counteract the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in our local communities of color. 

Collaborating Organizations:
This was a wide reaching community effort with too many partners to name.
Reducing community violence

The three leading causes of death in the United states for people ages 15-24 are unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide. Most of these violent deaths are directly associated with firearms. 

Violence, especially firearms, is a public health issue. Exposure to firearm violence approximately doubles the probability that a young person will commit violence within two years. Hospitalization for violence-related injuries is recurrent, with hospital readmission rates for subsequent assaults as high as 44 percent and subsequent homicide rates as high as 20 percent.

In Washtenaw County in the summer of 2021, after several violent altercations resulted in the shooting deaths of Antonio Bishop (24 yo), Arthur Ellerson (18 yo), Arshon Evans (17 yo), and Ziair Willis-Wilson (21 yo), Ypsilanti Mayor Lois Richardson convened a diverse group of community members with a singular focus of addressing community violence and saving the lives of our young people. 

The Community Violence Intervention Team came together with that goal. Members have years of lived experience in navigating, surviving, and in some cases perpetuating violence in our community. It is this lived experience, combined with the expertise brought forth by team members representing government and the real-world experience of team members representing service providers, that has brought this plan forward.

In Washtenaw County in particular, an alarming portion of gun violence is retaliatory. This means that violence in our neighborhoods is predictable, therefore it is also preventable. Although the disease of violence is deep-rooted and complex, there are solutions if we are committed to understanding the true nature of the problem and committing ourselves to taking the necessary steps to save lives by stopping violence.

Nominated Organization: Community Violence Intervention Team

The CVIT has developed 14 recommendations to interrupt violence in our community:
1) Setting a clear goal: Committing to saving lives by stopping violence
2) Identifying key people and places driving violence
3) Creating a plan for engaging key people and places
4) Engaging key people with empathy and accountability
5) Addressing key locations using place-based policing and investments
6) Placing responsibility for violence reduction efforts at the top levels of governance
7) Emphasizing healing with trauma-informed approaches
8) Investing in anti-violence workforce development
9) Setting aside funding for new stakeholders and strategies
10) Creating the Washtenaw County Violence Commission
11) Building a community center in eastern Washtenaw County
12) Building a community mural / safe grieving community space
13) Establishing grief and loss community response protocols for violent deaths
14) Establishing a communications alert system

The recommendations have been presented to 17 different government entities or affiliates of those government entities. On May 4, 2022, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution accepting the recommendations, instructing all county departments to explore and adopt the recommendations where appropriate, and allocated resources to the work.

These goals are in various stages of implementation now. CVIT has created a network of individuals, community-based organizations, violence interrupters, and programs working together to identify, connect with, and intervene with those driving the violence. They also completed a remembrance mural in Ypsilanti, created collaboratively between an artist and local youth.

In 2023, CVIT organized a Violence Intervention Summit on May 1st. The summit educated the community, service providers, law enforcement, and community leaders on the nature of violence in the community and possible solutions. The summit had full attendance, and brought together the community to listen to experts, discuss solutions together, and create specific implementation plans.

Collaborating Organizations:
City of Ypsilanti
Educate Youth
French & Wang
Mentor 2 Youth
Supreme Felons
SURE Moms 
Washtenaw County Administration
Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners
Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office
Washtenaw ISD
Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper
Ypsilanti Housing Commission
Ypsilanti Community Schools
Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees
Collaborating to address the behavioral health needs of young Black men and boys

The “Behavioral Health Collaborative for Young Black Men & Boys in Washtenaw County” is a collaboration between Packard Health and the University of Michigan School of Social Work Curtis Center for Health Equity’s Signature Program, the Young Black Men, Masculinities, and Mental Health (YBMen) project. 

The aim of this initiative was to plan, identify, and develop a coalition of community organizations committed to services that address the behavioral health needs of young Black men and boys in Washtenaw County. As part of the coalition, community organization leaders: 
Identified and reviewed what currently exists for behavioral healthcare for Black men and boys in Washtenaw County 
Reviewed available data on young Black men and boys in Washtenaw County 
Identified weaknesses and gaps in the care and accessibility of resources available 
Identified ways to maximize resources from our coalition organizations to improve care for young Black men and boys and their families. 

The project provided funds for “Catalyst Initiatives,” which were funds provided to each coalition member organization to support a program specifically for Black men and boys and their families. Together, members of the Behavioral Health Collaborative for Young Black Men & Boys in Washtenaw County served as a catalyst to find new and innovative ways to support young Black men and boys on their path to thriving.

Nominated Organization: Packard Health & U-M School of Social Work Curtis Center for Health Equity 

Ultimately, over the past 18 months, the team held a total of 10 monthly meetings, including a culminating community event; and over 40 one-on-one “Catalyst Clinic” support sessions. The result: 7 coalition organizations were able to support nearly 400 young Black men and boys and activate an ecosystem of over 100 families, adult mentors, local artists, and community members, with the remaining coalition organizations expected to support up to 45 more young Black men and boys and up to 300 more members of the ecosystem of support through community planning sessions, as well as live arts, music, and performance. 

The impact on the community has not just been the delivery of programming, much of which never existed before this project, but also, for the young Black men and boys, the pride in having a safe and brave space to come and be seen as a budding leader. For example, one coalition member reflected on the culminating event, explaining, “One of the highlights for me was at the end….when you talk to them about being a leader and you say “where are my leaders?” They hear that and they want to be leaders. They want to help clean up. They want to play a part and feel like they’re doing something to better their community.” 

This coalition provided that, not just for the young Black men and boys, but for each other. As one coalition member reflected, “Every meeting I think was really well worth it, just to feel everyone’s positive energy and to work together as a community.” 

As a result of this initiative, not only was the coalition able to create access to and disseminate a list of Black therapists to be circulated in the community, removing a critical barrier to dialogue and process as a bridge for mental health support for young Black men and boys, but over 400 young Black men and boys experiencing programming across a variety of sites, including full-day conferences, with peers, mentors, and community members, shifting the narrative of not just what trauma informed care can look like but that the organizations in community can be vital connectors and beacons of hope, possibility, and transformative practice to meet the shifting needs of young Black men and boys – and their families. 

Collaborating Organizations:
Packard Health
Huron High School
Ypsilanti Community Schools
Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper
Ozone House
Black Men Wellness and Resource Center + Brotherhood, Inc
Corner Health Center
Washtenaw Sheriff’s Department
Underdawg Nation
Formula 734 of Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper 
Reducing stigma around medication for opioid use disorder

Michigan Opioid Collaborative (MOC) with the University of Michigan has started a new Stigma Series. The series focuses on those fighting a substance use disorder (SUD) who are taking a medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD), giving them a chance to tell their success stories about taking a MOUD. MOC will also welcome doctors across Michigan to share their stories as well in prescribing MOUD and seeing real patient success. 

The series came about when our BHC’s realized that doctors were hesitant to get on board with prescribing a MOUD because of the stigma associated with these medications, such as trading one addiction for another and a high likelihood of diversion. When asked what was needed to possibly get them on board, doctors asked for more evidence that it works, including tangible evidence like people’s stories. They wanted to see faces behind the numbers. 

So MOC collaborated with BHC’s Melissa Demarse and Peer Katrina Suarez as well as a team member of OPEN, Chelsea Graham, to spearhead this series with a series of presentations. The presentations will rotate monthly between those with a SUD using a MOUD who are 2 or more years in recovery and doctors prescribing these medications. The organizers hope to break the stigma associated with MOUD.

Nominated Organization: Michigan Opioid Collaborative 

The series hopes to give wider and better access to MOUDs, make it easier to find a doctor offering this life saving medication nearby, and show the wider community that there is success in MOUDs. The collaborators hope to break down the stigma toward MOUDs that still runs deep in most of Michigan’s recovery communities. All in the hopes of saving another life. 

Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michegan OPEN)
Opioid Research Institute
Michigan Emergency Department Improvement Collaborative (MEDIC)
University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center