COVID-19 Micro-Grants

In March 2020, the CSSW Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) offered the first round of Rapid Micro-Grants in response to the profound need for virtual advocacy and critical resources in many places navigating the uncertainty of COVID-19. Two awardees received $3500 to support their critical advocacy efforts. Six additional awardees received up to $1000 from the CSSW Dean’s Office.

Round One Projects: Virtual Advocacy and Critical Resources

Given the continued complexity and urgency of acting to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the OAA opened a second round of micro-grant applications in February 2021 to promote actions that provide aid to marginalized communities that were impacted severely by the virus. The office requested applications that would help communities receive accurate and necessary information about the vaccine, encourage them to get the vaccine and provide quick and equal access to the vaccine in their areas. After a thorough review of the excellent project proposals submitted, eight recipients, a combination of individual and group awardees, were selected.

This was followed by a third round of micro-grants, targeted to address issues and take action on the intersection of racial justice and mental health issues in the COVID era. The office received an abundance of high quality project proposals, far more than could be funded, and recipients were announced in November, 2021. The OAA was impressed by the width and depth of the work colleagues were doing. Thanks to the support of the Dean’s Office, the office was able to receive funding for five more projects, totaling seven projects for this round.

Round Two Projects: Aid to Marginalized Communities


Project intro

The goals for our “Vaccinasians” COVID-19 microgrant project are as follows:

  • Support the Filipinx & Chinese communities–two of the most adversely impacted and under-resourced Asian Pacific Islander (API) populations in New York City–with intentional focus on migrants, elders, and houseless and disabled folx.
  • Share accessible COVID-19 vaccination kits with educational resources and PPE.

We hope to achieve these goals by working with local businesses facing financial challenges to share educational information with identified communities. We will set-up a public-facing space in front of two restaurants and distribute kits with (1) COVID-19 vaccine information and location pamphlets with accessible language(s) and anti-Asian violence resources; (2) Single roundtrip Metrocards; (3) PPE kit with mask and hand sanitizer wipes; (4) Cultural food or snack.

Project outcomes/deliverables

Successful tabling event with all packages distributed at respective locales to community members. Language accessible covid vaccine information pamphlets in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Tagalog.

English Infographic | Spanish Infographic | Mandarin Infographic | Tagalog Infographic

Team Members

Catherine Han (she/her/hers) is a second-generation Korean American, and a proud daughter of immigrants. She recently graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work (Class of 2021) with her method being Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming (AGPP) with a field of practice in International Social Welfare with Services to Immigrants and Refugees. Catherine is focused and committed to liberation and justice from a lens of abolition and intergenerational healing. For self-care, Catherine enjoys listening to 2000s R&B music, watching sunsets, and grounding herself through prayer.
Joshua Binag (he/him) is a recent graduate from the Columbia School of Social Work with a concentration in Social Enterprise Administration. During his time at CSSW, Josh was a co-leader for the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Caucus from 2019-2021. He is now an incoming Social Worker at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Lyons, NJ, where he is expected to start this Fall 2021.
Quyen Nguyen (she/they) is a first generation student, earning a dual degree at Columbia School of Social Work, with a method concentration in Policy Practice, and at the Mailman School of Public Health, concentrating in Sociomedical Sciences. They are passionate about reducing health disparities across racial groups and increasing access to mental health care. They are also interested in how professionals can conduct meaningful research that can inform evidence-based programs and policies, while at the same time, being ethical so it does not cause further harm to marginalized populations. They are currently volunteering at Columbia’s DEAR Project, whose aim is to provide assistance to community members in Washington Heights by assisting them in applying for government assistance programs.
Devany (she/her) is a second-year MSW student at Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) studying policy practice in social work with a focus in health, mental health, and disabilities. Currently, Devany's field placement is at the Office of Management and Budget in D.C. where she is working on the President's budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services. Last year, she was a social work intern with the Legal Aid Society with their Education Advocacy Project in the Bronx, NY. She's also at CSSW Social Intervention Group (SIG) working on the WINGS adaptation and the HEALing Communities Study (HCS) and is an RA with Professor Takamura.
Stacie Tao (she/her) graduated from Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) with her MSW in policy practice. During her MSW, Stacie was engaged in research with CSSW faculty and research centers. She is continuing her education at CSSW to pursue a PhD in Social Welfare Policy, to study intergenerational poverty and child welfare system-involvement, anti-poverty social policies, and welfare participation. Stacie is originally from Washington State.
Meryl Menezes (she/her) is a 2nd year student at Columbia School of Social Work, where she is specializing in advanced clinical practice with a concentration in health, mental health, and disabilities. In the future, she hopes to work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and practice cognitive behavioral therapy with children. She is also interested in pursuing forensic social work and plans to continue volunteering with the City Bar Justice Center this year, where she previously interned. In her free time, Meryl enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
Chris Won (he/them) serves as the Program Coordinator for the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW). Chris was born on the land of the Han (Corea), grew up on the land of the Massachusett (Boston), spent five years on the land of the Tlingit (Juneau), and is grateful to the Munsee Lenape whose lands (Manhattan) he is able to be a guest on. Chris is a Queer, neurodivergent, Third-Culture Kid educator, artist & advocate, passionate about Indigenization and culturally-sustaining practices. Chris hopes to honor belongingness, inclusion, and ancestral wisdom to foster equitable learning environments in his work.
Danielle Ocampo (she/her) received her MSSW from the Columbia School of Social Work in Spring 2021 with a specialization in Advanced Clinical Practice and a focus on Contemporary Social Issues. During her time at CSSW, Danielle served as a co-leader for the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Caucus from 2019-2021. Her professional interests lie within the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system. Danielle recently received her LMSW and is currently working as a family therapist for a juvenile justice program at The New York Foundling.
Ramya Chunduri, LMSW, LSW (she/her) recently graduated from Columbia School of Social Work with a Master of Science in Social Work concentrating in Advanced Clinical Social work (health, mental health, and disabilities field of practice). She is currently a Domestic Violence Social Worker at a not-for-profit organization that serves underserved South Asians. She is also a therapist at a mental health tech start-up organization. Ramya’s debut novel about mental health is being published in May 2022. Ramya enjoys reading, writing, and going to museums in her free time.
Esther (Est) Park (she/her) is a proud first-generation college student from a Korean immigrant family. She recently graduated from the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) with a Master’s of Science in Social Work and a concentration in Health, Mental Health, and Disabilities. During her time at CSSW, Est founded the First-generation and/or Lower SES Caucus and served as a co-leader of the Aging Caucus. Est is passionate about culturally humble community-level research and interventions. Previously, Est has conducted research at the Quality of Life Research Center (QLRC) at Claremont Graduate University in California, and she has also engaged in research at the Columbia Population Research Center and the Social Intervention Group at Columbia University. Outside of the world of academia, Est enjoys producing educational creative content on Instagram (@pups.coffeecups).
Ana Angeles (she/they) is the Associate Director of Student Leadership and Engagement at the Columbia School of Social Work. Outside of higher education, Ana serves as the League Commissioner of a queer and trans adult basketball league. Ana is proudly from both Vallejo, California and Manila, Philippines. They value social justice, community, wellness, and adventure.
Caitlin Kay (she/her) graduated from Columbia School of Social Work with a Master of Science in Social Work Degree in Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice Method Concentration (Health, Mental Health & Disabilities) and a Minor in Public Policy & Administration. She is currently serving in the U.S. Federal Government as a Presidential Management Fellow.

AAFE/HOGD March Free Giveaway – Flushing, Queens

Project Intro

AAFE and it’s partner House of Good Deeds collaborates monthly to host free giveaways to the Flushing, Chinatown and LES community. Attendees come from all over the city and on average 350-400 people are served monthly. Donated clothing, household goods, linens, toiletries, books, toys and pet food are given away. We used this platform to address vaccine hesitancy monthly. In March, we invited HHC to register attendees to be vaccinated, distribute vaccine hesitancy information in multiple languages as well as distribute personal safety alarms.

Project Outcome

320 people received vaccine hesitancy and vaccine information, 100 people registered for the vaccine through HHC.

Team Members

AAFE staff, Tracy So (CSSW student), Divya Nair (CSSW student), AAFE volunteers (NYU Law School and community members), HOGD volunteers, HHC – Health and Hospital Corporation, GLOW Staff

Two articles were written about this event, one from the Chinese publication, World Journal, the other from UJA Federation.

Creation of a community clearinghouse of vaccine trial community education and community engagement materials focused on COVID-19

Project intro

TAG Disseminated lay-friendly, vaccine-centered community educational materials through a hub on TAG’s website and hosted community webinars to address questions about COVID-19 vaccines. Over the past 24 months, through TAG’s work with both CoVPN and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), we have created a wealth of community-oriented vaccine literacy materials that answer common questions and hesitations about vaccine development, with a specific emphasis on engaging Black, Latinx, and other communities of color. These materials have now been made available to a wider community network. In such critical times for vaccine access, it is essential that health and research advocates from a broad spectrum of communities– particularly those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic– can access this information. TAG solicited community advocate perspectives on key questions related to ethical conduct for COVID-19 clinical trials, novel recruitment strategies, and the complexities of emerging initiatives to develop effective prevention and treatment options for COVID-19.

Project outcomes/deliverables

The resultant community advocate and engagement materials and information created through this work have now been made easily accessible to a broader community within a single access point within TAG’s COVID-19 web portal.

Please see PDFs below, or visit this link.

  • Understanding the Vaccine Development Process
  • Report Summary: Breaking Barriers: Surveying Community Perspectives of COVID-19 Vaccine Research
  • COVID-19 Variants and Vaccine Boosters — Where Are We?
  • Team Members

    Emily Ward is a second-year CSSW student on the clinical track and hopes to work as a school social worker after graduation. Previously, she received her Bachelor's in Psychology at the University at Albany, SUNY. In undergrad, she worked in three distinct research labs. She is extremely passionate about being an advocate to help dismantle targeted health disparities in the mental health community and aims to help alleviate stigma of mental illness as a whole. In her free time, she likes running, painting and taking pictures with her cat!
    Abraham Johnson is a public health educator and HIV/AIDS Advocate whose experience in the community health arena spans 6 years. Abraham joined TAG in 2020 as the HIV Community Engagement Officer where he supports the community engagement efforts for the HIV project. He has a strong theoretical background in public health education, as well as practical experience both inside and outside academic and rural settings.
    Prior to joining TAG, Abraham worked at FHI 360 as the community programs associate for the HIV Prevention Trials Network, International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trails Network and the Microbicides Trials Network. He holds a master’s degree in Public Health from Georgia Southern University and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Savannah State University. During his free time, Abraham enjoys traveling, trying different restaurants, and listening to his favorite artists.

    Empowering Self-Care in ECE Affiliates and Friends: Enhancing Vaccine Confidence Among Low-Income Latina Childcare Providers in New York City

    Project intro

    The purpose of this project was to engage members of historically marginalized communities in discussions to address institutional mistrust and vaccine confidence relating to the COVID-19 vaccine. We partnered with ECE on the Move, a grassroots organization to support the needs of early childhood educators (ECE) working in home-based childcare settings. The ECEs within the organization represent primarily low-income Latina women whose first language is most often Spanish.

    Using an anti-oppressive, psychoeducation-based approach we developed an interactive, informational webinar held in English and Spanish to ensure outreach to our target audience. The content included scientific facts about the development of the vaccine and ways in which it works and functions in the body. It also covered issues of historical racism and invited participants to engage in discussions about institutional mistrust and its impact on vaccine confidence. We worked with three experts in the scientific/medical field who were also bilingual speakers: Maria Sierra, Vanessa Estrada, and Chris Gonzalez. Their ability to provide the most current COVID-19 data and information about new regulations was crucial in delivering correct information to the participants during this ever-evolving time of the pandemic.

    Within six months, we held eight webinars with a total of 112 participants. Four of the webinars were held exclusively for ECE on the Move. Given their shifting needs and increased uptake in receiving vaccinations, we connected with another community organization, WHEDco, to reach more people. This collaboration bolstered WHEDco’s ongoing Vaccine Education Initiative, which began in January 2021, in an effort to improve vaccine equity and health outcomes in the South Bronx, a neighborhood particularly hard hit by the pandemic. The last two webinars were streamed on Facebook and can be viewed by the public. (English / Spanish)

    At the end of each webinar, participants were asked to fill out an exit survey which asked about their likelihood to seek out the vaccine, whether or not the informational-discussion webinar was helpful, and if they had any additional questions. This exit survey was also used to collect payment information for the stipends for participant stipends. We received 99 exit survey responses and distributed $2,970 in stipends.

    We received matching funds from the Mason Lab to extend our ability to provide stipends for participants. We are grateful to both Columbia School of Social Work and the Mason Lab for investing in this project and empowering Latina childcare workers in New York City to feel confident in the COVID-19 vaccines.

    Team Members

    Juliana Pinto McKeen (she, her) was born in Bogota, Colombia and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. As a previously undocumented person, Juliana worked as an in-home caregiver for over a decade. Later, she co-founded and directed an early childhood program in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The program was open for six years before being forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the crisis, Juliana became a founding member of the Brooklyn Coalition of Early Childhood Programs and a member of the Empire State Campaign for Childcare. Most recently, Juliana was the Policy and Program Manager at Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap. Juliana holds a BA from Hunter College in Psychology with a minor in African American, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies, and a master’s degree from Columbia University in Social Work. She is published in the 2021 edition of the Columbia Social Work Review with an article titled, “Mind the Gap: Addressing Childcare Inequalities for Children and Caregivers.”

    Nicholas Hakimi (he//him/él) is a dual degree student at Columbia’s School of Social work and Mailman School of Public Health. His concentration is in global mental health epidemiology and clinical treatment for psychiatric disorders. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, but spent part of his childhood in Mexico City and Southern California, before moving to New York City for graduate school. He currently works for the New York State Psychiatric Institute as a bilingual research assistant, while also providing bilingual mental health therapy at the Visiting Nurse Service of NY’s FRIENDS Child and Adolescent Community Mental Health Clinic. He looks forward to publishing various scientific papers he’s working on as a co-author, and gain clinical experience once he graduates to achieve an LCSW. He wants to continue working on advocating and providing mental health treatments for children and adolescents around the globe.

    Angie Monreal (she/her) is a first year sociology Ph.D. student at the University of California, Irvine, where she studies the intersections of incarceration, immigration, and criminalization. She has a M.S.W. from Columbia University and is B.A. is sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work titled, “ The Testimonios of System-Impacted Daughters of Color on Healing from Parental Incarceration”, has been published in the Columbia Social Work Review Journal. Angie was born and raised in Anaheim, California and is the proud daughter of immigrants from Mexico.

    Emma Harger (she/her) is a recent graduate of Columbia School of Social Work. Before attending graduate school, Emma spent time teaching English in Chile and living in Washington, DC working with nonprofits as a fundraising consultant. She currently works as a social worker at Jericho Project in their rapid rehousing program, where she assists young adults experiencing homlessness in obtaining housing, gaining employment, and promoting overall financial stability. She also provides direct therapy to individuals, and plans to pursue her clinical license. Emma hails from Pittsburgh, PA and spends her time outside of work enjoying the outdoors. She holds a B.A. in developmental psychology and German from Carnegie Mellon University.

    Faculty Advisor

    Dr. Amy Kapadia is a Lecturer in Discipline at the Columbia School of Social Work. Dr. Kapadia’s research interests stem from community-based clinical work within the field of serious mental illness, and include the mental health effects of discrimination and stigma among marginalized groups, and psychoeducation intervention development to enhance mental health within the community. Most recently, Dr. Kapadia’s work has focused on addressing the impact of COVID-19 among community and spiritual leaders within marginalized communities to enhance recovery and resilience, and to address disparities caused by structural forces. Dr. Kapadia teaches within the Clinical and Advanced Generalist Programming and Practice tracks. She embodies an anti-oppressive, strengths-based approach that centers on collaborative learning and shared experiences. Her goals are to elicit students’ capacities, encourage vulnerability and self-reflective work, nurture a belief in themselves and encourage the use of their voices. Dr. Kapadia holds a PhD from the Columbia School of Social Work.

    Peers in the pandemic: Examining beliefs and attitudes about the COVID-19 vaccine among harm reduction peer outreach workers in New York City

    This project is still in the progress. We will share the research results after the project is completed.

    Team Members

    • Bethany Medley, MSW: Ph.D. student – Advanced Practice, CSSW; Graduate Research Assistant, SIG
    • Lyla Yang, LMSW: First-year Ph.D. student, CSSW
    • Sara Landers, LMSW: Second-year Ph.D. student, CSSW; Graduate Research Assistant, SIG
    • Advisor: Louisa Gilbert, Ph.D.

    Read more info here.

    Understanding Immunization and Care

    Project intro

    UIC completed the project Understanding Immunization and Care: COVID-19 Vaccine Info Dissemination in five parts facilitated by our social media platforms: we posted original COVID-19 content, reposted content created by community partners and trusted science communicators, administered a vaccination perceptions survey, hosted fireside chats over Instagram Live, and delivered raffles and care packages. We promoted the entire project through the media of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Our original content condensed the originally complicated processes of obtaining a vaccine in the so-called tristate area in which we focus our work into easily digestible slides and steps and outlined historical reasons why Indigenous folks in particular may not trust the development of vaccines. We reposted resources from educators such as Johns Hopkins, Just Human Productions, Dr Liz M, and Dr Nini Muñoz that illuminated personal risk evaluation strategies, detailed vaccine development and mechanisms, and myth busted vaccine controversies. We developed a short survey, administered through Instagram Stories and Google Forms, that examines the vaccination attitudes of our community as well as who their trusted sources of information are. The Fireside Chat Series was hosted by Ariel Richer through the Instagram Live platform, and she interviewed five Indigenous healthcare professionals, organizers, and scientists about a variety of topics surrounding the pandemic. Finally, we partnered with Yellow Project to curate a self-care package for Indigenous people living in the continental US that contained traditionally-derived medicines, wellness prompt cards, and PPE.

    Project outcomes/deliverables

    • Survey: We have 160 survey responses, about 75% of which we believe are unique and human (not bot) entries. These responses were collected over the months of April and May. Of those: 84% were vaccinated at end of May; there was an 80% trust in “the vaccines” with 22% CV; and on average a 3 of 5 positive experience getting a vaccine with 26% CV. We look forward to doing an analysis in the coming weeks to determine how vaccination trust correlates with whether the respondent got the vaccine, and what their experience was getting their vaccination. We will also generate word/phase clusters depicting our respondents’ trusted sources, reasons for trusting the vaccine, and thoughts about their vaccination experiences. These results will be published to our followings on social media. From a preliminary view of the free-form responses, we see an emphasis on: getting vaccinated for the safety of the community, and making a risk evaluation between the knowns and unknowns related to COVID-19 vs vaccines against it. This emphasis is not surprising from what members of our team experience in our own Indigenous communities.
    • COVID-19 info landing page
    • IG posts and continually updated highlight reels about COVID and vaccines

    Team members

    Gianna Reza-Ortega | Program Manager of Research + Advocacy | Chiricahua Apache (she/her/ella)
    Gianna Reza-Ortega is a queer person with roots in the Chiricahua Apache tribe and Mexico. She is a recent graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Chemical Engineering, where she spent her undergraduate career planning and executing programming in both physical and virtual spaces to build community and raise voices of young adults from marginalized communities. Gianna is passionate about reproductive healthcare and healthcare access for marginalized communities, especially those affected by carceral systems.
    Ariel Richer, LMSW (PhD candidate) | Chief Executive Officer | Venezuela/Trinidad & Tobago
    Ariel is a descendant of the Indigenous people of Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. Ariel is a doctoral student at Columbia University School of Social Work working within the Social Intervention Group (SIG), under the direction of Associate Professor Louisa Gilbert. Her focus is on intimate partner violence prevention at the intersection of drug and alcohol use, community-based participatory research, and working collaboratively with Indigenous and Native communities. Previously, she worked as an Impact Evaluator at the Administration for Native Americans where she worked directly with community-based organizations developing logic models, evaluation plans, data collection tools, and processes at a community-specific level and across a diverse set of communities.
    Logan Tootle, MSW (candidate) | Chief Operating Officer | Cherokee Nation
    Logan Tootle is a member of the Cherokee Nation. She is currently a MSW student at Columbia University specializing in Social Enterprise Administration. Logan is completing her social work fieldwork with UIC as an MSW Associate. In addition to her studies, Logan is a Research Assistant for Dr. Brooke S. West who focuses on the sociostructural factors of substance use and HIV/STIs among womxn. Logan recently relocated to New York City from Minneapolis/St. Paul where she worked at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC).

    Using Photovoice to assist Community-Based Social Workers Reflect on Community Resilience During the Covid-19 Pandemic

    Project Intro

    The projects that the COVID-19 vaccination grant funded took two forms. First, the grant was used to engage staff at New Life Centers of Chicago (NLC) in a community based participatory research (CBPR) project. During this CBPR project four NLC staff collaborated with a Columbia University PhD student to understand how social workers who live in the community in which they work see resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic? The PhD student and NLC staff met four times to complete the project with results being used to build upon the strengths of the community to promote public health best practices and vaccine information.

    Secondly, additional funds were used to purchase necessary PPE for the organization as they interface with the community on a regular basis. For example, prior to the pandemic the organization’s food pantry served 100 families a week and now serves over 10,000 families. As a result, funds were allocated to provide these workers with PPE in order to enhance their safety while providing the community with resources. Additionally, NLC leads outreach efforts to reduce violence through engaging residents who are most likely to be perpetrators and victims of community violence. Thus, funds were used to provide these outreach workers with not only PPE but reflective jackets to keep them safe and visible while intervening in community conflict and conducting mediations.

    Project outcomes/deliverables

    The CBPR project has been completed thanks to the COVID-19 micro-grant. NLC staff were able to be compensated for their time in creating a unique research project that focuses on the strength of the community rather than their deficits. The staff were very thankful for the opportunity to be engaged as local experts since they are not often seen as such. Mike, one of the staff and participants in the CBPR project stated “I feel like my voice did matter, yeah, I think that’s the beauty of this…similar to (restorative justice) circles, right? When you’re in a circle where your thought process kind of evolves and changes, while you hear other people speak.” The staff has since used the strength and resiliency that they discovered in the project to promote public health best practices and vaccine information to the many community residents and participants that they engage with on a daily basis.

    Additionally, all of the PPE and safety equipment for the organization was purchased and delivered. Where staff were able to have all the necessary equipment to serve and engage a community that has been struggling with COVID-19 cases and instances of community violence.


    Nathan Aguilar, LCSW, is a third year PhD student at the Columbia School of Social Work. Prior to doctoral studies he was a social worker for five years in Chicago where he worked in a community-based organization with gang involved young men. He I also worked at a hospital violence prevention organization where he provided clinical support to gunshot survivors throughout the city. His research interests pertain to the experiences of gunshot survivors as well as the well-being of street intervention workers. He is looking to understand how technology can play a role in supporting these two populations.

    Additional information

    Did the project take on any new directions, and how will it influence your future research agenda?

    The only new direction that the project took was that we did not produce flyers regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. It was important for the Columbia student to let the community lead efforts to promote the vaccine given their expertise. After working with staff through the CBPR project it was determined that it would be more effective to use the funds for PPE and community violence safety gear than produce flyers for the vaccine. However, such a change provided an opportunity for the researcher to work with the staff to understand the hesitations of the community regarding the vaccine as all staff members live in the community as well. These meetings took place during the CBPR project and assisted staff in creating efforts to communicate with organizational participants and community residents about COVID-19 and the vaccine given their standing in the community as credible messengers. The additional PPE and safety gear allowed NLC staff to engage with residents in a safe manner and promote public health best practices and vaccine information through their actions.

    This project has taught me the importance of community engagement throughout the research process. I think I made a mistake of coming in with a plan rather than sitting down with the community to understand what they think is the best way to move forward. By working with the community as co-producers and co-leaders of the project I was able to get more buy in and used the gracious COVID-19 micro grant to assist the community in a way that they needed rather than what I assumed they needed. This will no doubt influence my future research agenda as I now understand the importance of engage the community I plan on studying in order to create effective interventions and relationships that value true collaboration and the expertise of the community.

    Round Three Projects: Racial Justice and Mental Health

    Telehealth “verzuz” Radical Telehealing: Reimagining Digital Social Media as Virtual Healing Spaces for Black Women

    Project Introduction and Background

    The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing racial disparities in mental health, as well as, in service access and utilization. While intersectional analyses are limited, it is evident that Black women are more likely to face multiple threats and traumas resulting from the pandemic. The rapid expansion of telehealth services during this pandemic has generally transplanted care models, grounded in White supremacy, from physical to virtual spaces. Within these systems of care, Black women are more likely to experience secondary victimization and retraumatization when seeking mental health treatment. The conception of “telehealth”, as well as Western healthcare models, needs to be reimagined to better reflect the unique care needs of Black women.

    Grounded in intersectionality and radical healing frameworks, we looked to Black women to help us reimagine and broaden the technologies included under the “telehealth” umbrella. We examined two popular virtual engagements centered around Black audiences and created during the COVID-19 pandemic: DJ D-Nice’s “Club Quarantine” and the VERZUZ online series. Through the qualitative thematic analysis of 2000 public Instagram comments responding to these events, we explored how social media applications might be employed to address key barriers in access and utilization to equitable mental health care for Black people. Further, our work aimed to describe the clinical qualities and mental health benefits of social media applications (ie. Instagram) for supporting culturally-congruent care models for Black people.

    Project Conclusions and Implications

    The present study explores the virtual healing practices of Black people during the dueling pandemics (COVID-19 and racial injustice) and the ways in which social media was leveraged to support these practices. We contend that the manner in which social media was employed during this time to create communal spaces that center healing, self-care, and well-being indicate the utility of these applications in designing and supporting culturally-congruent care models for Black people. Our analysis reveals that in response to two key social media engagements targeting Black audiences, attendees reflect that these virtual venues have the ability to address barriers and support facilitators to mental health access and utilization for Black people.

    There are four prominent themes drawn from our analysis that suggest social media applications might be a mechanism to address key gaps in mental health service access and utilization: 1) Timeliness of the Virtual Event, 2), Accessibility of the Virtual Space, 3) Necessity of the Virtual Space, and 4) Expression of Gratitude and Appreciation. Additionally, several prominent themes demonstrate the unique ways social media applications might be leveraged to more intentionally create culturally-congruent (ie. radical healing) care models for Black people. These include: 1) Emotional and Spiritual Impact, 2) Ancestral and Culturally-Grounded Healing Practices, 3) Safety and Reflection, and 4) Community and Collectivism.

    Considering these findings, we propose that the intentional integration of radical healing frameworks with existing social media, and potentially other emergent technological applications, affords researchers, clinicians and technologists a unique opportunity to transform the ways we conceptualize and deliver evidence-based, culturally-congruent mental health treatment to Black communities.

    Team Members

    Chelsea Allen

    Chelsea Allen is a doctoral student at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. She currently works with Dr. Courtney Cogburn examining the role of racism and race-related stress in the production of health inequities. Additionally, this work studies the effect of immersive virtual reality experiences on psychological processes, such as empathy/social perspective taking, racial bias and decision making. Previous to attending Columbia, she practiced as a clinical therapist working with children and families. Chelsea’s scholarship is interested in examining they ways self-identified Black women leverage emerging technologies (ie. social media and virtual reality) in service of healing, wellness, and self-care.

    Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn

    Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn is an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and faculty of the Columbia Population Research Center and Data Science Institute where she co-chairs the Computational Social Science Working Group. She employs a transdisciplinary approach to improve the characterization and measurement of racism, and in examining the role of racism in the production of racial inequities in health. Dr. Cogburn’s work also explores media as a social stressor that contributes to racial inequities in health. She also works at the intersection of emerging technology and social justice. She is the lead creator of 1000 Cut Journey, an immersive virtual reality experience of racism that premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, and is also the co-founder of the Justice Equity and Technology Studio at Columbia. Dr. Cogburn is a member of the American Medical Association’s External Equity & Innovation Advisory Group, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Equity Collective, and also serves as the Chief Equity Officer and Knowledge Transfer Director of the Learning the Earth with Artificial Intelligence and Physics (LEAP), an NSF Science and Technology Center (STC). Dr. Cogburn completed postdoctoral training at Harvard University in the RWJF Health & Society Scholar Program and at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. She received her Ph.D. in Education and Psychology and an MSW from the University of Michigan and completed her BA in Psychology at the University of Virginia.

    Dr. Jalana Harris

    Dr. Jalana Harris is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Hypnotherapist, Certified Life Coach, and Consultant based in NYC. She operates a private practice in NYC, providing therapy and coaching to individuals, couples, and families. Jalana completed her Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare at Stony Brook University, where she also received her MSW and was a distinguished Turner Fellow. She has an extensive history in social development and community organizing. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer having served in the Dominican Republic where she worked with small business owners, government, and local non-governmental organizations providing training and facilitation on strategic planning, leadership, and program development. Her research and practice focus on cultural scripts, intersectionality, and intergenerational trauma and healing.

    Dr. Zuleka R. Henderson

    Dr. Zuleka R. Henderson is the Founding Director of the Center for Black WellBEing (CBW), a new branch of The Healing Collective, where she is reimagining mental health service delivery and clinical training for Black people. She was previously an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Bowie State University and a lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work, where her research and scholarship focused on the intersections of ancestral healing practices, trauma, and pathways to wellness. Dr. Henderson translated insights from her research, practice, and personal experiences to developing CBW, a healing-centered, culturally rooted, collective practice that works with organizations and individuals to create the conditions for wellness to come alive for all Black people. Dr. Henderson has also collaborated with scholars across disciplines to develop teaching approaches that can reduce research and statistics anxiety among social work students. She has also worked with colleagues to examine the implications of historical trauma theory for culturally relevant pedagogy within social work research curricula. Her scholarship and academic work is complemented by her commitment to community. She served on the leadership team of a Rites of Passage program for young girls from New York City and has volunteered to present workshops about trauma, healing, and creative self-expression for adolescents in Washington, DC. Dr. Henderson received her Ph.D. in Social Work from Howard University, her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Fordham University, and her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

    Errica Williams

    Errica Williams is a psychotherapist in private practice and perpetual student of human behavior. Her corporate experience spans over 20 years in business, healthcare administration, and mental health/behavioral managed care. She holds a master of Public Health degree (MPH) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in addition to a master of science in Social Work (MSSW), from Columbia University in the city of New York. Errica’s work in research and academia is geared toward psychological wellbeing and education, with a focus on Black liberation, healing and joy. She also collaborates with community organizations to reduce health disparities in the Black community, especially decreasing the stigma toward mental health therapy and counseling. In all her pursuits, Errica’s passion lies in centering and serving the Black family, particularly Black women, mothers and couples. She currently serves as Associate Psychotherapist and Marriage and Family Program Coordinator for Inspire Counseling, LLC.

    Rachel Chang

    Rachel Chang is a pre-medical student at Columbia University, pursuing a degree in Ethnicity and Race Studies and Public Health. She is passionate about closing racial disparities in health care and access. She grew up in Southern California where she is still actively fighting for educational equity with Justice in the Classroom. In collaboration with peers, she creates and teaches intersectional health curricula in New York City high schools. She currently works with Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch researching physician and health care provider attitudes towards often stigmatized communities, such as people who use drugs. Rachel has also studied and presented with Dean Marlyn Delva on an interdisciplinary and multi-modal education program about COVID-19, structural racism, and social justice.

    Share information with the Harlem and Morningside community about Prolonged Grief Disorder

    Project Intro

    This project will provide information and resources to communities in Harlem and Morningside Heights about Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD). A recent addition to the DSM -5-TR, PGD results in significant impairment in functioning and is likely to be highly prevalent after pandemic related deaths. The project will address the impact of PGD in Harlem and Morningside Heights by developing educational materials and mental health resources to supplement the disparity of mental health care typically experienced by communities of color.

    Team Members

    • Gaelle Bottex (CSSW student)
    • Amy Cuzzola-Kern (CSSW student)
    • Shanequa Perry (NYU MSW student)
    • Julio Martinez (CUNY MPH student)
    • Lena Green (Director of HOPE Center)
    • Katherine Shear (Director of Center for Prolonged Grief)

    Healing as we Build: Black Women Centering Mental Health amid COVID-19

    Project Intro

    This project will create an affinity space for Black Women focused on healing and Black futurism. While Black Women play a pivotal role in communities, families and the national economy, they are continuously devalued and dismissed by public policies and institutional practices. COVID-19 has exacerbated these injustices as well as putting many Black Women at high risk as they fill frontline positions with disproportionately minimal benefits and low wages. This affinity space will prioritize healing, developing skills and tools to navigate chronic stress, and community building while crafting a plan for Black Futurism. Twelve to fifteen Black women in New York City will be enrolled in four three-hour meetings.

    Team Members

    • Tiffany Younger (CSSW Lecturer)
    • Chandler Phillips (CSSW Student)
    • Mishael Sims (CSSW student)
    • Tyese Brown (Community Leader)
    • Lashawn Butler (Community Leader)

    Supporting BIPOC Agency and Mental Health: A Resource Guide Informed and Developed by BIPOC Mental Health Advocates and Social Work Students

    Project Intro

    Created by members of Surviving Race, a collaboration among individuals who identify as having psychiatric histories, psychiatric survivors, BIPOC and LGBTQ12SA, this project will invite New Yorkers with mental health issues as well as CSSW MSW students interested in mental health careers to create knowledge around need of BIPOC New Yorkers regarding mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will yield a mental health resource guide, created by the MSW students in collaboration with BIPOC New Yorkers, that will be distributed publicly.

    Team Members

    • Chyrell Bellamy (PhD, MSW, Yale School of Medicin​e)
    • ​Teena Brooks (LMSW, M.Phil, ABD, Columbia School of Social Work​)
    • ​Celia Brown (Surviving Race​)
    • Claire R. Chang (MA, PACFA, CCTP-II, MindFreedom International)
    • Jonathan P. Edwards (Ph.D., LCSW, ACSW, NYCPS, Columbia School of Social Work)
    • Kathleen O’Hara (PhD, MSW, ​Columbia University School of Social Work)​
    • O’Toole v. Cuomo (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York​)

    Umoja Circles: A Free, Online Group Processing/Emotional Support Space for the Black & African Community

    Project Intro

    The disregard and lack of concern for Black bodies have been evident throughout history. As a result of years of Anti-Black racism, individuals from the Black and African diaspora have been unjustly criticized, criminalized, and left disenfranchised. This inequitable distribution of power and resources has had a negative compounding effect on the community. A boiling point was reached in 2020 when a public lynching of George Floyd occurred at the hands of three police officers. As a result of this civil and social injustice, people of all races and ethnicities came together to fight for justice and equality. To properly advance, the Black community needs to heal from the decades of slavery and the post-traumatic slave syndrome. Psychoeducation pertains to social work, teaching individuals coping mechanisms from a strengths-based perspective that includes teachings with an emphasis on psychosocial and emotional processing.

    The curriculum invites participants to connect with their ancestors and work to find and implement joy into their lives. An individual who has stable mental health, a connection to their ancestors, and a life of joy and purpose can begin to work to dismantle the decades of systematic oppression. After the three sessions, program participants will receive an intense introduction to health education. In the fourth session, participants and the facilitator(s) should have built enough rapport to address the topic of health and positive body image. In the Black community, health is one of the significant contributors to shortening lifespans. Often a topic left unaddressed in healing spaces and therapy. In the spirit of Umoja, participants will learn about healthy habits and strategies that they can add to their lives to ensure they increase their life expectancy and live vibrant lives. Health literacy can be improved through the provision of information, effective communication, and structured education.

    Project Outcomes and Deliverables

    Outcome 1
    Providing Honorariums to Participants:

    As a result of the micro-grant, we were able to begin to provide honorariums to our program participants. Group members and workshop participants received $25 as an incentive towards attending the Umoja Circles groups. The grant helped support three group participants who engaged in six hours of emotional processing space.

    Outcome 2
    Creating an Instructor’s Manual:

    Umoja Circles facilitators started the process of creating an instructor’s manual and workbook for participants. The goal is to use feedback from our initial workbook to create additional workbooks for people who are not a part of a Umoja Circles cohort. Collectively, we are working to examine our core curriculum and instructor’s manual.

    Outcome 3
    Create a Marketing Plan:

    The Umoja Circles team has created a marketing plan to broaden our outreach to the community via social media advertising, creating logo-branded materials to provide to participants and staff, hosting in-person community events, and creating a website.

    Outcome 4
    Create Branding Materials:

    Currently, we have partnered with a web designer who is working on creating the design for the workbook, program logo, and other branding materials. In addition, the team is collecting data from previous cohort members about the effectiveness of the program so that we can tailor our outreach and website design.



    During the 2021-2022 grant year, the Action Lab Umoja Circles Team was able to use grant funding to begin the in-depth strategic planning to develop the instructor’s guide ideas, grow outreach efforts and brainstorm promotional ideas. Year one focused on the groundwork of content for the curriculum, instructor manual, and outreach material. The team began outreach to community-based agencies and facilitated the initial cohort of participants. These efforts took time and planning, that has now paved the way for moving the innovations forward. Over this upcoming year, Umoja Circles will finalize the project outcomes and continue to advance the foundational work accomplished over the past year. The micro-grant funding has been incredibly beneficial in providing the initiative with the opportunity to set goals for our work moving forward. Given our ongoing commitment and moving to implementation and full completion, we request a carry-over of funds to complete the objectives of the UC racial justice micro-grant project goals. The budget allocated for items 3-6 will provide the outreach necessary for community participation. Item 1 will carry over and provide incentives to anticipated participants as we plan and recruit for three groups offered this year. Item 2 will provide the necessary instructional materials to facilitators and participants.

    Over the course of this academic year, we will continue to support our outside vendors and community leaders to execute all of the items outlined in our budget. Please see the itemized budget above. Thank you for your consideration.

    Team Members

    Ashley “Ash” Cole, Jr.

    Ashley Cole, Jr., better known as Ash, is a native of FarRockaway, Queens, a graduate of Queens College, and a graduate of Columbia University School of Social Work. Ash is now a first-year doctoral candidate at Columbia University School of Social Work. Ash served as the Vice-President of the Association of Black Social Workers at Columbia University, a Student Advisor for the Action Lab, a Research Assistant at the SafeLab, a Student Ambassador, a Beyond the Bars Fellow Alumni, the Lead Facilitator for Umoja Circles, Psychotherapist, and Professor. He’s also a Co-Editor of the book entitled Unwritten: Stories from Behind and Beyond the Bars. He is well known for countless events in which he has moderated and co-moderated throughout his tenure at the Columbia School of Social Work. As a first-generation graduate student, he shares many of the lived experiences of the people he serves. He’s an advocate for criminal justice reform, fathers who the child support enforcement unit has negatively impacted, and the mental health of young Black boys in academia. You can find him spending time with his family when he’s not working to break the bondage of systematic oppression.

    Chantel Plummer

    Chantal is a second-year Reduced Residency student on the Advanced Generalist Practice and Programming track at CSSW. Chantel has a background in child protection and juvenile justice in New York City. She’s interested in effecting change within governmental agency policies that disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities of lower socioeconomic status. She is dedicated to educating and advocating for others navigating inequitable systems. Currently, her roles include being an Action Lab Advisor, Administrator and Outreach Representative for Umoja Circles, Action for Black Lives (ABL) Advisor, and serving as one of the Senior Editors of ABL’s Melanated newsletter.

    Deidra D V Brooks (She/Her/Hers)

    Deidra Brooks is a second-year Master of Social Work student at Columbia University School of Social Work. Her expected graduation date is in May of 2022, with an academic concentration in Advanced General Practice and Programming with specialty training in health, mental health, and disabilities Deidra works to transfer her skills and knowledge to empower her family and community. In the university, she serves as an Action for Black Lives Advisor, Secretary for the Association of Black Social Workers-Columbia University Chapter (ABSW-CU), Co-Leader of the First-Generation Low SES Caucus, and Co-Host of the Action Lab’s Ebony Tower: Racial Justice Podcast.

    Eva Gordon

    Eva Gordon, LMSW (she/her), is a psychotherapist in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently providing clinical supervision to the Umoja Circles facilitator at the CSSW Action Lab. This is her second year with the Umoja Circles and enjoys being a part of an initiative that wants to provide a safe space to the Black community of NYC. As a 2007 alumnus of CSSW, she enjoys supporting and guiding her fellow social workers in this initiative, enhancing their professional and personal journeys. Eva also takes pride in providing mental health services to the Black community with psychotherapy, mental health workshops, and being a panelist at community mental health events.

    Gabriela Carrillo

    Gabriela Carrillo (she/her/Ella) is an MSW graduate student with a clinical specialization at Columbia University. Previous to pursuing her graduate degree, Gabriela graduated as a Chicanx and Central American Studies Major from UCLA. Her educational and professional career has rooted her approaches to care and healing in intersectional and liberatory frameworks. She wants to provide individual therapy, community support programs, and educational models to address eating disorders and sexual violence among femmes and women of color. In doing so, she hopes to disrupt internalized and interpersonal colonial violence cycles.

    May Lee

    May Lee is a first-year graduate student. She is originally from Taipei, Taiwan; however, she grew up in West Texas. She plans on doing a clinical focus at Columbia University School of Social Work with a dual degree in Columbia’s Masters of Public Health program in sociomedical sciences. She is currently involved in the Reproductive Justice initiative and Umoja Circles. Her future goals are to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and work in immigrant mental health.

    Nathalie Carvalho

    Nathalie Carvalho is a first-year student at CCSW pursuing her MSW in Clinical Social Work. She is originally from Brazil but grew up between Brazil, Germany, Italy, and China before coming to the U.S. to pursue her undergraduate degree at NYU. She is a career-changer and was an actress professionally, with arts education, crisis intervention, and group facilitation experience; these experiences have led her to pursue her passion for mental health and social justice at this time. She is very excited to be part of the Umoja Circles and to help it grow!


    Curriculum Proposal:

    Intake Form:

    Site Map:

    ShockTalk pilot: Increasing access to culturally appropriate telemental health services for Indigenous clients

    Project Intro

    ShockTalk is a culturally tailored telemental health platform and linkage-to-care for Indigenous peoples, by Indigenous people. This app leverages Facebook Messenger as the point of entry for clients to interface with the ShockTalk AI which gathers basic contact information, syncs their calendar, and allows them to schedule an introductory 15-minute intake session with one of therapists from the vetted ShockTalk directory, and sends a reminder message to ensure client and therapists connect. After the intake session, the client and therapist decide if the therapeutic fit is appropriate and begin a therapeutic relationship or refer to other services. Clients continue to schedule their sessions through ShockTalk using the calendar functions.

    The aims of this research were as follows: 1) Assess changes in client attitudes related to telemental health treatment value and trust in ShockTalk technology; 2) assess the accessibility, experience, and value of ShockTalk for practitioners and clients interested in providing or receiving culturally responsive mental health treatment; and 3) estimate the potential benefit of the culturally responsive mental health treatment facilitated by ShockTalk. Further evaluation of this pilot program will assess the prospective benefits of telemental health care linkage for Indigenous individuals living in urban settings.

    Project Outcomes

    1. Identified and brought on 3 Indigenous therapists as partner providers for ShockTalk app in New York State
    2. Identified 3 additional Indigenous therapists interested in joining the ShockTalk platform and directory in the coming months
    3. Recruited 12 Indigenous therapy seekers in New York State
    4. Provided 4 Indigenous therapy seekers with at least 5 ($600 equivalent) free therapeutic sessions with Indigenous licensed therapists
    5. So far, 2 Indigenous therapy seekers have continued
    6. Initial findings from the baseline surveys and in-depth interviews include:
      1. Experience with therapy prior to ShockTalk Pilot:
        1. All participants have met with a therapist before, only one participant had met with a therapist online or virtually. On average, participants had met with their therapist between 2 and 9 times. However, the only respondent who said they met with a therapist virtually, only attended one session with them.
        2. All participants agreed or strongly agreed that the race or ethnicity of a therapist should align with their identity. Further all participants agreed that not needing to explain what being Indigenous or Native means to a therapist was important in identifying a therapist.
        3. All participants agreed that a therapist who offered a sliding scale fee was important
      2. Using the ShockTalk App:
        1. All participants agreed or partially agreed that they were in control when using ShockTalk and that it was an app that they can trust
        2. All participants agreed or partially agreed that The in-app scheduling made scheduling an intake appointment with a therapist easy.The automatic reminder before my intake appointment helped me attend my appointment on time.
        3. All participants agreed or partially agreed that they would suggest this app to a friend or family member
      3. In-depth Interviews:
        1. Overall, participants were happy that there was an app just for them as an Indigenous person. They were excited to share their thoughts about ShockTalk and be part of the research process.
        2. “You did the hard work of finding Indigenous therapists that I could trust.” –Participant quote, 27 year old Indigenous person in the New York City Tri-State Area
    7. To view and Early platform preview and our  Website
    8. We will publish both a protocol and outcome paper in peer-reviewed journals. Additionally, we will seek funding to expand the pilot to continue making improvements to ShockTalk. We recently received seed funding to implement the technological improvements and fully develop this app. We can’t wait to make ShockTalk available to all Indigenous people and ensure they have access to quality mental health care.

    Team Members

    Austin Serio | Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer | Chicoran Shakori

    Austin is a member of the Chicoran Shakori tribe of South Carolina. As part of the Great Migration of the 60s, some Shakori and other peoples of color walked away from sharecropping by migrating to the northeast “for the good union jobs”. Growing up as a Two-Spirit urban native in the Simsbury area of Hartford, Austin has found himself at powerful intersections between the forces of Technology and Globalization.

    Sutton King, MPH | Co-founder & Chief Financial Officer | Menominee/Oneida

    Sutton King, MPH, Nāēqtaw-Pianakiw (comes first woman), is the co-founder, president and chairperson of UIC and the Co-Founder of ShockTalk. Sutton King MPH, a descendant of the Menominee and Oneida Nations of Wisconsin, is a nationally recognized Afro-Indigenous public health leader and social entrepreneur.

    Ariel Richer, LMSW (CSSW PhD candidate) | Principle Investigator | Venezuela/Trinidad & Tobago

    Ariel is Afro-Indigenous and white, descendant of Carib Indians, the Indigenous people of Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. Ariel is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University School of Social Work working within the Social Intervention Group (SIG), under the direction of Professor Louisa Gilbert. She focuses on increasing access to and use of culturally-tailored interventions and services. She engages in community-based participatory research to better understand the syndemic of substance use, intimate partner violence, and HIV and STI risk. Ariel works with Black, Indigenous, and queer communities who use drugs and have been affected by the criminal-legal system.

    Training to Support BIPOC Workers’ Mental Health Needs During COVID-19

    Project Intro

    Mental health challenges in the United States are an issue that affects many people. The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that approximately 1 out of 5 adults (46 million people) deal with this issue on a daily basis (NIMH: Mental Illness, 2017). With mental health issues being such a widespread phenomenon, the importance of having multiple channels for providing support is crucial. Because nearly 63% of American adults work (Mental Health in the Workplace, 2019), the workplace is one of the most important avenues for promoting mental healthcare and support.

    This becomes even more relevant of a topic in the current context of COVID-19. According to a report by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the “rates of anxiety and depression symptoms have tripled since 2019” (Workplace Mental Health COVID-19, n.d.). From the same report, Black people in the United States went from screening positive for anxiety and depression in the first half of 2019 at a rate of 8% to 34% in the summer of 2020; the highest rate of any racial group. The Latinx population showed a similar increase in rates of screening positive for anxiety and depression. This data demonstrates that BIPOC populations are shouldering a disproportionate burden regarding mental health challenges and that organizations should be prepared to support them in the workplace.

    While employee mental health was a significant concern prior to the current crisis, the pandemic creates a situation that needs to be addressed in the workplace by employers. This proposal is to conduct research regarding the needs of BIPOC workers in organizations and how their specific mental health needs can be met; especially considering the enduring crisis of COVID-19 and its effect on their communities. The research team used data from a survey on workplace mental health to assess how BIPOC communities perceive the support they receive from their organizations regarding their mental health as well as what their organizations can do to better support them. The research team analyzed the findings of the survey and created a training on recommendations for strategies that organizations can employ to support the mental health of their BIPOC workers.

    The research team conducted a series of 4 training to disseminate the recommendations. The organizations that received training included a private practice provider group, Vanderbilt Hospital’s Social Work department, the Social Work department for Nashville City Schools, and a conference presentation at the Network for Social Work Management’s Future of Work Summit. In addition to the training, the participants were provided with continuing education credits and with a book focused on self-care for BIPOC populations. The trainings were well-received and requests for additional resources and information have bene received by the research team.


    Mental Health in the Workplace. (2019, April 26).

    NIMH: Mental Illness. (2017). [Government]. National Institute of Mental Health.

    Workplace Mental Health—Employee Mental Health & Well-being During & Beyond COVID-19. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2021, from

    Team Members

    David Bolt

    David Bolt, DSW, LCSW is a consultant for people development and culture issues for organizations as well as being an adjunct faculty member at the CSSW. Dr. Bolt’s research interest is in workplace mental health programs.

    Carmen Reese-Foster

    Carmen Reese-Foster, DSW, LMSW is an Assistant Professor of Practice, Online MSSW Program Director (Interim), and Director of Alumni Affairs at UT College of Social Work. Dr. Reese-Foster’s research focus is about the impact of COVID-19 and race-based trauma on the mental health of Black social workers.