The Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) is partnering with the Khalil Center in Glen Ellyn, Illinois to provide emergency funds and holistic counseling for individuals undergoing financial hardship and severe mental and emotional distress. The partnership empowers distressed individuals to seek out the resources they need to attain financial independence and long-term, mental well-being. These services are especially crucial for new and fairly recent immigrants, including refugees, for whom adaptation to a wholly different culture can prove difficult and highly stressful.
The collaboration between the two organizations is timely. Almost a full two years after the expiration of its last budget in July 2015, Illinois is still without an official operating budget. The budgetary impasse has led to a social crisis in which funding is drying up for social service organizations. In 2012, six public mental-health clinics were closed in Chicago; in 2015 another major provider was forced to close its doors, with no relief in sight.
The funding gap has caused mental health-related admissions to emergency rooms to skyrocket 37% since 2009, according to National Public Radio, while the Associated Press reports that a full fifth of the inmates in the Cook County Jail are locked up for mental health issues. Yet as many organizations that provide the basic services people need are being shuttered or forced to cut back, some are stepping up to meet unanswered needs.
The Khalil Center, a community-focused psychological and spiritual wellness center, has been serving the Chicagoland community for over six years. Through individual and small-group counseling, therapeutic services combining spiritual and modern psychological methods, and educational programming for the community, the Center has been steadily growing in its capacity to offer mental health resources to Chicago’s immigrant community, having served almost 20,000 beneficiaries in 2016 alone. Additional support from ZF is now making it possible to treat individuals in dire financial circumstances who are in need of not just monetary aid, but also comprehensive psychological help.
The successful partnership between ZF and the Khalil Center represents a model for social and community service in a time of austerity. These non-profit organizations are stepping up to the challenge to bring vital services and resources to those who are bearing the brunt of the budget impasse. Until the impasse is broken, new collaborations between organizations like these can go a long way to provide for and protect our community’s most vulnerable citizens.