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Jesse Brown 4 Black Lives engages veterans and staff

Jesse Brown 4 Black Lives

Photo caption: Jesse Brown 4 Black Lives skating and bowling event

When the Jesse Brown 4 Black Lives (JB4BL) taskforce was created in June 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd, the VA had no idea how much the taskforce would achieve. Two-and-a-half years later, JB4BL is still going strong, with around 100 members on the taskforce, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, psychologists, nurse practitioners, medical students, residents, and fellows. Their mission is so simply stated it may sound easy: to address racism in health care impacting veterans and staff. The work this group has done to already fulfill this immense mission is astounding.

A large portion of JB4BL’s accomplishments lies in clinical changes to not just Jesse Brown, but the entire VA.

In 2021, JB4BL’s clinical committee’s advocacy led to Jesse Brown no longer using an outdated algorithm that included race to measure kidney health. Shortly after, the national VA followed suit and removed race as a factor that measures kidney health.

Since that adoption, JB4BL advocacy has also led Jesse Brown to adopt race-neutral tests that measure for lung disease/functioning.

In addition to scrutinizing race-based practices and methodologies, JB4BL has been making strides in improving access to medications for the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders, and expanding harm reduction practices for substance use disorder patients at Jesse Brown.

Along with clinical accomplishments, JB4BL also has an Events & Visibility Committee, co-led by Tenisha Fennie. The committee works to bring veterans, their families and supporters, and Jesse Brown staff together to celebrate Black culture and create safe spaces for more difficult race-based conversations. They have spear-headed events and celebrations over both Black History Month and Juneteenth.

Fennie’s passion for helping veterans comes from her home life; her father is a veteran, and her brother is a Marine. A licensed social worker, Fennie started her career at the VA at the Vet Center, then moved to Jesse Brown as the Mental Health Coordinator of the Acute Psychiatric Unit.

With the creation of JB4BL, Fennie saw an opportunity to bring together her passion in addressing trauma with her life skills and experiences. She developed a program of cultural and social events to engage and include veterans, staff and the community.

One of those events was hosted just last weekend, the first annual “Rollin’ Together” Skating and Bowling Event at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Skating and Bowling Center. The event was open to veterans and their supporters, as well as Jesse Brown staff, providing some much-needed cultural immersion for veterans and VA staff alike.

Along with roller skating and bowling, the JB4BL clinical committee gave updates on their successes with increasing health equity across the VA, and various veteran service providers were present to provide resources and referrals, as needed. The event was just one of many to come that will strive to bring together veterans, their supporters and Jesse Brown staff in celebration of Black culture.

To learn more about JB4BL and any future events, reach out to JB4BL’s Steering Committee at [email protected]. For more information, visit Jesse Brown VA Healthcare or call (312) 569-8387.

If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 and press 1 to be connected to a representative. You are not alone. The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center is here to support you in all of your health care needs and will faithfully serve all who served our country.

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