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Bellamy and Anderson Present on Imani Breakthrough

On December 2, 2021, as part of the CAS Emerging Addictions Science Seminar series, Dr. Chyrell Bellamy and Rev. Robyn Anderson presented on Engaging Communities: The Imani Breakthrough Faith-Based Opioid Recovery Program.

The Imani Breakthrough Project at Yale University is a faith-based individual and group wellness intervention taking place in the community within Latinx and Black churches. Designed to decrease opioid use and its negative consequences, the IMANI Breakthrough was developed through a state initiative of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, funded by SAMHSA, and is part of the Connecticut State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis.

Since Latinx and Black adults are less likely to engage in substance use treatment, new avenues for engagement are needed, such as through community churches. The Imani Breakthrough makes use of a community-based participatory research process that fully engages the people of primary interest in all aspects of a project, from conceptualization through data collection, interpretation, and sharing of findings. Bellamy has long practiced and advocated for a participatory co-production approach, emphasizing the importance of stakeholder engagement to maximize relevance of research and interventions, increase trust towards service systems, and maximize adoption of evidence-based interventions.

Rev. Anderson described the award-winning project, which has actively involved local pastors in developing and implementing an innovative model for a faith-based recovery program. The project also developed and provided education to church communities about the need for community-based support. The Imani Breakthrough includes varied resources and supports offered by each participating church, as well as a standardized 12-week intervention of classes and activities focused on wellness and citizenship, followed by a 10-week Next Step program of support and coaching. Wellness is described using the 8-dimensional model of wellness developed by CAS Associate Director, Dr. Peggy Swarbrick. This strengths-based holistic model emphasizes the importance of self-defined balance across 8 dimensions: physical, intellectual, environmental, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, and occupational. The citizenship component of the project is based on the 5Rs developed by Dr Michael Rowe of Yale: relationships, rights, responsibilities, resources, and roles.

Participants in the Imani Breakthrough have had a high rate of completion and have achieved positive outcomes. Prior to participating, about two-thirds of participants were not receiving substance use services, although most have multiple issues and needs, including past incarceration. Outcomes include participant reports of improved wellness and citizenship engagement, education accomplishments, greater independence, and increased hope. The program continues with both the interventions and research, as well as a new telemedicine option and increased treatment supports. In order to preserve choice, the new research component offers participants the option to decide whether they are open to being randomized to intervention conditions.

In summary, Dr. Bellamy stressed the critical importance of community ownership through stakeholder involvement in developing and implementing projects like this, including involving existing faith-based leaders and institutions who already provide needed services and supports. She also stressed as well as the need for education and support to enhance the capacity of the churches to do this work.

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies.