What We’ve Learned: Access to Opportunity

Throughout September 2020, our staff members are highlighting different areas of the community where the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund can make an impact. Pictured above: Hillcrest Family Services is a key partner in our ongoing work to help people access brain health services. 

By Peter Supple 
Economic Opportunity Coordinator 

Often when people think about “opportunity,” it’s in the context of an old saying: Opportunity will one day “knock” at the door, and it’s up to each of us to answer. 

For many people, though, opportunity doesn’t just come along — they have to overcome social and personal barriers to land that job, afford that school, or build those relationships that enable them to thrive. At the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, our work is about identifying and breaking down those barriers. 

Take our brain health initiative, for example. Several years ago, we conducted a community needs assessment to help us understand the biggest obstacles to opportunity for people in the Dubuque region. Access to brain health care was at the top of the list, indicating that in order for people to succeed in life, they need to be able to tend to their mental well-being. 

With that knowledge, we’ve worked closely with nearly 40 local organizations and agencies to find ways of bringing brain health services within reach for more people, particularly those who typically struggle to access the care they need. 

One way we’ve done this is by working with officials in law enforcement and criminal justice. Building on three decades of experience as a Dubuque County prosecutor, Community Foundation Board Member Chris Corken is facilitating discussions that have resulted in new processes and protocols focused on brain health. 

Police officers in Dubuque, Asbury and Peosta now undergo first aid training for brain health, enabling them to identify when a person is experiencing a brain health crisis and, when appropriate, respond with assistance rather than an arrest. 

Dubuque police now call on Hillcrest Family Service’s Mobile Crisis Unit for assistance when encountering a brain health emergency — a service that officers had been requesting and has now been in place for two years. 

Additionally, our work has led to a "wrap-around" program for people who have both been jailed for misdemeanors and diagnosed with brain health issues. The program expedites their path through the criminal justice system to ensure they don't become disconnected from social safety net programs and other care upon release, previously a common occurrence. 

Our brain health work isn’t just focused on police and the courts. Last year, we formed a group focused on how we as a community are tending to our children’s mental well-being. Since forming, the group has helped implement mobile crisis care for youth and developed a list of brain health care, assault survivor services, and other resources to connect adults with the services children need.  

The group is looking at how to reach more children, both through the addition of new services and by helping existing services be more efficient. This work reaches beyond the city of Dubuque, as the group includes educators, service providers, parents and local officials from across Dubuque County. 

With both our adult and children’s brain health work, our goal is the same: Ensure people are on a path to long-term success. It’s work that is about transforming how the community serves its people — so people can go on to better serve the community. 

It’s also the type of work that our Greater Dubuque Forever Fund can help sustain. The Forever Fund is a way to address whatever needs and opportunities arrive in the future, even if we have no way of knowing what they are today. Just as we researched what issues are holding people back today, we will continue striving to understand what must be addressed tomorrow to help all people thrive. 

Read more about how the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund can strengthen our region for the future:   

Make your gift today: dbqfoundation.org/forever