The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is pleased to announce two new initiatives awarded through its Community Impact Grant Program.

The awards of $500,000 each over three years provide support for community-academic partnerships that are building distinct pathways toward health improvement. Biehl Bridges to Recovery, a branch of the Marinette County Group Home Association has received funding for an initiative to create access to sustainable employment and economic stability for people in Marinette County impacted by substance use disorder. A grant to Walnut Way Conservation Corp. supports an initiative to develop interventions and support to reduce childhood lead poisoning on Milwaukee’s Northside.

The grant recipients and initiatives are:

Biehl Bridges to Recovery, a branch of the Marinette County Group Home Association, for the initiative Advancing Health Equity through Economic Stabilization within the Recovery Community

The overarching goal of this project is to improve the health and well-being of people in Marinette County with substance use disorder, or in recovery, by connecting them with access to sustainable employment and economic stability.

The initiative will provide tools and support to help individuals obtain and maintain sustainable employment and achieve economic stability through peer recovery coaching and by educating employers on policies and practices to build Recovery Friendly Workplaces (RFW) —businesses committed to making foundational changes in the way they hire, treat, and support employees living with or seeking recovery from substance abuse.

The program utilizes peer-driven recovery support for both employers and individuals through building a network of RFWs in Marinette County to support local employers, and empowering individuals in recovery to obtain and maintain sustainable employment. With access to meaningful and sustainable employment, the individuals served by Bridges to Recovery will be more likely to experience housing stability, food security, and have better access to health care and educational opportunities.  

The project also focuses on supporting individuals in recovery who are involved in the criminal justice system, and may need additional support to achieve sustainable employment. Jennifer Park-Mroch, PhD, UW–Madison Extension, serves as the academic partner.

Walnut Way Conservation Corp for the initiative Making Milwaukee a Lead Safe City

This initiative is using a community-driven approach to significantly reduce childhood lead poisoning and prenatal exposure to lead in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and address the significant health risks and persistent inequities of lead poisoning rates in impacted neighborhoods.

The partners are taking a multi-pronged approach to this work including developing a community-based lead poisoning detection and intervention program to serve residents of Milwaukee’s Northside; convening a parent-led stakeholder leadership group to strengthen the continuum of care for the prevention, detection, and treatment of childhood lead poisoning in Milwaukee; and training and mobilizing parents and caregivers who have been impacted by lead to develop community-driven solutions to address lead poisoning.

Partners include the Coalition on Lead Emergency’s (COLE) Parents Lead Committee, Walnut Way, Children’s Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Health Department , and the UW-Milwaukee Zilber School of Public Health. The project will begin in Milwaukee’s 53205 and 53206 zip codes, due to the high levels of lead poisoning and location of key community partners within these neighborhoods. Emmanuel Ngui, DrPH, from the Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee serves as the academic partner.

“We are pleased to support these new collaborations and the important interventions  they are proposing,” said Amy Kind, MD, PhD, associate dean for social health sciences and programs at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and executive director, Wisconsin Partnership Program. “The awardees are addressing significant health needs through clear community engagement and strong partnerships. Their proposed activities have strong potential for positive impact and sustainability, benefiting both the communities served, and the state of Wisconsin.”

The Community Impact Grant Program provides support for large-scale, evidence-informed community-academic partnerships that address the social determinants of health—economic stability, education, social and community context, access to health services and care, and neighborhoods and the built environment —to improve health and advance health equity in Wisconsin’s urban and rural communities.

The Wisconsin Partnership Program is a grantmaking program within the UW School of Medicine and Public Health established as the result of a generous endowment gift from Blue Cross Blue Shield United of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Partnership Program improves health and advances health equity through investments in community partnerships, education, and research. Since 2004, the Wisconsin Partnership Program has awarded more than $280 million in grants that propel medical research, enhance health education and workforce development, support community health partnerships, advance health equity, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.