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The Imani Breakthrough Project: Collaborative Approach to Address Mental Health and Addictions in Black and Brown Communities

Imani Breakthrough is a faith-based, person-centered, culturally informed harm reduction recovery program that takes place in churches developed and implemented by Drs. Ayana Jordan and Chyrell Bellamy and Team, Yale Psychiatry and a co production team. This program engages individuals to access substance use treatment, by focusing on 8 dimensions of wellness (social determinants of health/ SDOH), 7 domains of citizenship, culturally informed education, and referral to medication for addiction treatment (MAT) or any FDA-approved pharmacotherapy for treating a substance use disorder. Built upon the foundation of spirituality, of high cultural significance among Black and Latinx communities, Imani groups are delivered in churches and are administered by trained church representatives, including a person with lived experience of a SUD.

Imani Breakthrough is centered in lived experience knowledge and the ethos “Nothing about us without us,” a term by Judi Chamberlin and other disability and recovery activists. Imani is developed by people in recovery and primarily people of color. It combines two promising evidence-based approaches (both originally co- produced/designed by people in recovery): The Citizenship Community Enhancement (7 domains of citizenship – measured by the citizens construct including 1) personal responsibility, 2) government infrastructure, 3) caring for others, 4) civil rights, 5) legal rights, 6) choice, and 7) stewardship.; activated by the 5Rs – relationships, rights, responsibilities, resources, and roles; (developed by Dr Michael Rowe) and the 8 Dimensions of Wellness (1) physical, 2) intellectual, 3) environmental, 4) spiritual, 5) social, 6) occupational, 7) emotional, and 8) financial health; developed by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick, Rutgers Professor and Associate Director Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology.

The Imani Breakthrough program consists of weekly group-based mutual support and recovery/education classes with individualized wraparound coaching provided by two facilitators/coaches (first 12 weeks), followed by an additional 12 weeks of group mutual support and wraparound coaching. Facilitators must include one person with lived experience of substance use and one person who is a member of the church (both can be members).  

Imani Breakthrough provided a culturally informed education, mutual support, and intensive wraparound coaching, in a safe and familiar environment. Imani Breakthrough was developed to increase access to treatment among underserved minorities with opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders; it also has improved engagement in community and mental health services. for more information:


Recent publications:

Chyrell D. Bellamy, Mark Costa, Janan Wyatt, Myra Mathis, Ariel Sloan, Mariana Budge, Kimberly Blackman, Luz Ocasio, Graziela Reis, Kimberly Guy, Reverend Robyn Anderson, Michelle Stewart Copes & Ayana Jordan (2021). A collaborative culturally-centered and community-driven faith-based opioid recovery initiative: the Imani Breakthrough project. Social Work in Mental Health, DOI: 10.1080/15332985.2021.1930329

A collaborative culturally-centered and community-driven faith-based opioid recovery initiative: the Imani Breakthrough project: Social Work in Mental Health: Vol 0, No 0 (tandfonline.com)

Publication under review:

Jordan, A., Nich, C., Swarbrick,M., Babuscio, T., Wyatt, J., O’Connell, M., Guy, K.,  Blackman, K.,  Anderson, R., Reis, G., Ocasio, L., Crespo, M., Bellamy, C. (2022).  Breaking Through Social Determinants of Health: Results from Imani Breakthrough, a Community Developed Substance Use Program for Black and Latinx People. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.