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Governor Pritzker Praises Aunt Martha’s
“amazing work” in Response to COVID-19

Governor JB Pritzker and his staff visited Aunt Martha’s health center in Chicago Heights on Friday, Feb. 12 to promote the State’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution campaign.

 

ABC7 Eyewitness News Coverage

 

WGN News Coverage



Exclusive Interview!

Emmy-winning news anchor Robin Robinson with Raul Garza, Aunt Martha’s President and CEO on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, engaging hesitant patients and communities, and more!

 


 

Aunt Martha’s was featured on CBS This Morning’s Vaccinating America series!

COVID-19 TESTING

Walk-ins welcome • No appointment needed
9 AM to 4 PM • Monday thru Friday

Available at select Aunt Martha’s locations.

Educating Ourselves. Educating Our Community.

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

March 5, 2021

According to the state’s Department of Public Health, White people received close to 70% of the 2.76 million COVID-19 vaccination doses that were administered in Illinois through February 28. Even in the most equitable distribution scenarios, the introduction of a third, single-dose vaccine will not on its own significantly alter the math that shows Whites being vaccinated at a rate 9 times that of Illinois’ Black and Latino communities. The fundamental challenge – as issues of supply and local accessibility are overcome – is one of demand. Demand, that is, among those individuals and groups who are both: a) at a higher risk of infection, as Latinos have been, or death or serious complication, as African Americans have been; and b) highly hesitant about taking the vaccine that might be the difference between life and death.

This is a challenge of building and rebuilding trust. It is a challenge that Aunt Martha’s is proud to own. Our plan, as we have seen played out since early December, is to deliver clear and consistent communication with messaging that builds trust, acknowledges historic reasons for mistrust and dispels myths and misinformation in the communities that have been hit hardest by COVID-19.

Protecting, Educating and Empowering all Employees

Consistent with our approach at every step over the past 12 months, our focus is first on protecting, educating and empowering our employees, from the front line to the back office. Our goal, based on the premise that every employee has the opportunity to positively influence the vaccination decisions of their peers, their friends and their family, is two-fold. In addition to building confidence in their decision to get vaccinated and encourage others to take the vaccine, we are also arming our staff with the tools they need to educate the people they serve, answer their questions and address their concerns. We continually encourage our employees to engage in this two-way dialogue through:

  • Regular surveys that provide invaluable insight on the pandemic’s evolving impact from both a personal and professional perspective;
  • Townhall sessions hosted by our Chief Medical Officer and other clinical leaders where staff are given the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns in an unscripted, informal setting; and,
  • A consistent flow of communication between our executive team and all levels of staff.

Educating and Engaging Communities and Individuals

You are most likely already more familiar with our ongoing, public campaign to educate and engage the people and communities we serve. To better understand varying needs across our service area, we use real-time data from sources like the COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index, which overlays indicators of social vulnerability, such as socioeconomic status or language barriers, with indicators of vulnerability unique to the pandemic, such as access to healthcare and comorbidities among the population. Our message can then be tailored, to the extent possible, to the unique needs of each community.

Since appearing as a source in a mid-November article in the Chicago Tribune, we have continued to aggressively pursue opportunities to address vaccine hesitancy, reinforce the safety and efficacy of the various vaccines now available, and encourage vaccine uptake among all those for whom it is recommended. Subsequent to that article, I have been interviewed for several shows, including CBS This Morning’s Vaccinating America (December 11) series and ADELANTE (February 25) which focuses on reaching a large Latino market segment and airs on Milwaukee PBS. Between those appearances, I participated in a Facebook Live (January 24) session with Emmy award-winning news anchor Robin Robinson and, as many of you are aware, was asked to speak during the press conference that followed Governor Pritzker’s February 12 visit to Aunt Martha’s vaccine clinic at our Chicago Heights Community Health Center.

Save only for ensuring the safety of our employees, these efforts are moot if they do not contribute to the impact of our work in some of Illinois’ most vulnerable communities. In that work, we are proud to work with collaborative partners in the child welfare, juvenile justice, community wellness and healthcare spaces. In addition to the vaccinations we’ve administered to our staff and patients, DCFS named Aunt Martha’s its preferred partner in the effort to ensure that frontline child welfare workers (the Department’s staff as well as employees from other child welfare agencies) have the opportunity to be vaccinated in the first phase of the campaign. And, in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, we are partnering with Humboldt Park Health (formerly Norwegian American Hospital) and The Loretto Hospital to establish a community-focused integrated care network that will address:

  • The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 among communities of color, especially the area’s Latinx population, which has accounted for 56% of all cases in the area.
  • Gaps in care – many long-standing – including access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, specialty care for chronic conditions and other community resources that influence the social determinants of health; and,
  • The structural racism that stakeholders say not only contributes to health inequities but also continues to traumatize individuals and communities.

What is clear, in the final analysis, is that medicine alone will not lead us out of this pandemic. The best of our collective clinical skills must be blended with the best of our individual character, our common pursuit of equity and social justice, and our common goal of caring for those who are most vulnerable. This is the perspective our employees have embraced. Their commitment and their compassion are perhaps most clearly reflected by the growth Aunt Martha’s has experienced even in the midst of the most uncertain days of pandemic.

Last year, more than 12,000 patients visited an Aunt Martha’s health center for the first time, and our clinic staff cared for more than 75,000 patients in all. Agency-wide, we directly touched close to 120,000 lives, but our impact extended to still thousands more. All of this is because Aunt Martha’s is that place where people know they are always welcome and where they will always be well cared for by what is, in my estimation, the best collection of talent, courage and selflessness in our industry.

Raul Garza
President and CEO


A Family’s Thanks and a Call to Action

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

February 12, 2021

In the past week I have received emails from no fewer than 200 friends and colleagues offering condolences to my family and I following my father’s recent passing. Your kind words and wishes have meant a great deal to me. They have meant so much, in fact, that I thought they might also be a source of comfort to my mother. I shared them when I visited her yesterday. She was touched, as my entire family has been. Read more…


Hope from Heartbreak: The Importance of  COVID-19 Vaccination

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

February 5, 2021

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

On Tuesday of this week I lost my father to COVID-19. He was 82 years old, had survived a stroke a dozen years ago and beaten Leukemia in the years since. It was only in the past seven years or so that I grew very close to my dad. He was my confidant, often consoling but more often offering counsel through challenges, including my work at Aunt Martha’s. My dad got his COVID-19 diagnosis on New Year’s Eve. He was hospitalized and after eight days was released, appearing to have overcome the virus that overtook him Tuesday. Yes, you could say that he lived a full life, but he had more living to do. Read more…


Integration and Collaboration Drive New Opportunities

January 15, 2021

Among its many effects, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed powerful light on our society’s failures. Chief among those failures is the disturbing reality of disparity sown in every effort that enables or contributes to systemic inequities and exclusions. We see, every day, stark examples of the carefully constructed, morally corrupt relationship between poverty, race, life and death in our country. We see people of color – especially those living in low-income households – continue to bear the worst effects of COVID-19 itself and its economic fallout. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, the highest rates of employment-related income loss have been among Hispanics, where an estimated 58% of households have lost employment income since March. About half of African American households are estimated to have lost employment income. The largest portion of households to lose employment income were low-income homes with children.

These are the most vulnerable members of our communities. These are the people Aunt Martha’s is proud to serve, more than 77,000 children and adults in 2020, including 12,000 who came to us for the first time. In all, we provided nearly a quarter of a million visits, a 20% increase in just two years. That growth is a testament to the depth of the needs in the communities we serve and to the substance and scope of the response we are prepared to offer. In the first months of the New Year, we will do more. Read more…


The Mark of a Year so Difficult to Leave Behind

December 30, 2020

Though we may try, it will not be an easy task to turn the page on 2020. It is perhaps, one of the enduring ironies of a year that begs like no other to be left behind. The year has tested our patience, tried our resolve and revealed our character. Its mark is indelible, both for better and for worse. At Aunt Martha’s we choose to learn from the latter and to celebrate the former. We choose to learn, to recognize the wisdom of self-reflection and to seize every opportunity to right the errors of the past. We choose to celebrate the work done well, the small victories as much as the large, and the next step forward. We choose to act.

Our perspective is reflected in our approach to the events of 2020, but its roots are embedded, foundational elements of our organizational strategy and design. Read more…


A Letter to Aunt Martha’s Employees from the Board of Directors

December 11, 2020

To All Aunt Martha’s Employees:

Fearless and compassionate. These words were repeated on several occasions when Aunt Martha’s Board of Directors convened earlier this week for our final scheduled meeting of 2020.

Fearless and compassionate. This is how the Board of Directors characterized Aunt Martha’s response – your response – to every challenge 2020 has mustered. You stood on the frontline in a global pandemic and on the frontline of the fight against racism and inequity. You stood and continue to stand, in our perspective, as heroes and as examples of what is right. Read more…


Celebrating the Diligence and Determination of our Employees

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

November 20, 2020

Every seven seconds another Illinois resident is confirmed positive for COVID-19.1 This week Illinois has averaged more than 12,100 new cases per day, a 2-week increase of 58% and a 3-week spike of 133%. According to Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the data confirms the worst. The plain fact is that COVID-19 is spreading unchecked through our communities.

At Aunt Martha’s, where our frontline staff have unflinchingly faced every challenge the coronavirus has spawned, we have been fortunate to have experienced comparatively low positivity rates. That good fortune is less the result of circumstance and more the result of individual diligence, discipline and organizational design. It is, first and foremost, the result of a conscious, continuous effort – on the part of more than 800 employees – to do the right things to protect one another as well as those we serve. Read more…


Innovating and Investing in a Time of Crisis

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

October 21, 2020

In a time of crisis, Aunt Martha’s chose to stand up and speak out about the racial and social injustices that too many of our patients and clients, our parents and our children, our employees, our coworkers and colleagues continue to endure. We chose to challenge our peers to become more diverse at all levels, and to advocate for true change. There is progress, but the time has come for strides rather than mere steps. And in this time of crisis – inspired and driven by the courage and commitment of our employees – Aunt Martha’s chose to innovate, to invest in the immediate and ongoing needs of the hundreds of communities we serve. Read more…


Exposing Racism in All Forms

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

September 21, 2020

I write today because you have always known me to be transparent with you about organizational issues Aunt Martha’s is facing, including at times what our leaders are experiencing personally. Aunt Martha’s has never hesitated, in its history of close to 50 years, to stand up against injustice in any form, in any forum or in any community. Over the past four months, I have written extensively to audiences both personal and public about our clear stance and commitment to racial and social justice. Many of our employees have also expressed their concern and their disgust with the level of inequity that exists within certain outside entities, and it has been my pledge to continue to take this fight to any and all arenas where it is necessary. To meet that commitment, I – and we – must be willing to challenge, even confront those among us who might hear our words but fail to heed our message. Read more…


New Support in Our Fight Against Racism, Discrimination in the Village of Midlothian and the Battle Against COVID-19

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

August 17, 2020

Backed by a $5 million donation from The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, the Live Healthy Chicago collaborative informed Aunt Martha’s last week of a $50,000 grant award to offset a portion of the cost of the negative air pressure system installed in April at our Children’s Quarantine Center (CQC). The CQC represents Aunt Martha’s response to calls from DCFS for agencies with the capacity to safely care for youth in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it is the state’s only facility designed to care specifically for foster children whose living situation is disrupted by COVID-19. Read more…


Reflecting on our Shared Journey

Excerpt from a Memo to Aunt Martha’s Employees from Raul Garza, President & CEO

July 2, 2020

On Tuesday, June 30, I published a statement following that days hearing before the US District Court in Aunt Martha’s discrimination suit against the Village of Midlothian. The judge had extended the emergency temporary restraining order that prevents the Village from shutting down our Children’s Quarantine Center. The individuals representing the Village, however, have never been more transparent in either their desire or intent to shutter the CQC. They couch their motives in a message of public safety. But let me be absolutely clear. The protection they seek is not protection from a virus. They are fighting to keep diversity out of their community. Read more…


A Statement from Raul Garza, President and CEO, on Aunt Martha’s Continued Stand Against Racism and Against the Discriminatory Practices in the Village of Midlothian

June 30, 2020

Last month, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a level of racial and social upheaval our country has not witnessed in a generation, Aunt Martha’s filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Village of Midlothian for violating the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act in an effort to shutter the state’s first children’s quarantine center for DCFS youth affected by the COVID-19 pandemic…. This discrimination case has been and continues to be one of fairness. It is, at its core, the issue we are all challenged to confront and represents the systemic inequities we have allowed to become so deeply entrenched in our society and, at our own fault, in our own communities. Read more…


Juneteenth, the Supreme Court and Living up to our Ideals

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

June 19, 2020

Today, June 19 – or Juneteenth – commemorates the freedom of the last Black slaves in America. It has been 155 years since the date was first recognized in 1865. As recent events have demonstrated, our country and each of us as individuals still have a great deal of work to do in the name of equality and justice. It is a day to reflect on the type of country we are, and the type of country and the type of people we must still strive to become. Read more…


A Landmark Decision for Diversity and Inclusion

Excerpt from a Memo to Aunt Martha’s Employees from Raul Garza, President & CEO

June 15, 2020

I have mentioned the work being done to restructure the design of our orgnization to best support our employees and thrive in the new reality of COVID-19; and, more importantly, strengthen our ability to contribute to a social environment of racial equity and justice. I am pleased to report that we have completed the design phase of that effort. Now, we must all go to work. The changes we make and the work we do together will represent an extension of our collective fight against the racial and social injustices faced by so many members of the communities we serve. Read more…


A Continued Call-to-Action

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

June 12, 2020

In calendar year 2019, more than 70 percent of the patients and clients who turned to Aunt Martha’s were people of color. One-third of those we served identified themselves as being Hispanic or Latino in ethnicity. More than half (55 percent) identified themselves as African American.

These numbers are more than statistics. They represent this organization’s commitment – your commitment – to serving and to caring for those who historically have been underserved at best, and often left to fend entirely for themselves. They also represent Aunt Martha’s. They represent you and I. Today, for the first time in its proud history, Aunt Martha’s has people of color serving in the roles of both CEO and Chief Operating Officer. Overall, more than 75 percent of the agency’s staff (including close to 60 percent at the leadership level) are people of color, representing and reflecting at every level of the organization the experiences and challenges faced every day by the people we serve. Read more…


We Stand Against Racial Injustice

A Statement from Raul Garza, President & CEO

May 31, 2020

The overt acts of racism that have occurred across our country over the past few weeks are truly disturbing. The tragic events that have been covered extensively by the media recently are truly some of the worst examples, but they are not the only racist events that have occurred in the past month, past week, or even the past day. Racism of varying degrees occurs every minute of every day – some with tragic outcomes such as the heartbreaking cases of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. May they both rest in peace.

Although the internet and social media has, at times, allowed racism to be more readily exposed, racism in our country is not a new reality. The dark history of mistreatment of people who are perceived to be “different” than those in power has scarred this country and all who call it home. The disadvantages created by the vicious cycle of historic and ever-present racism is immense. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the inequalities that already existed. Read more…

We encourage everyone to get tested for COVID-19, whether you are experiencing symptoms or not, and follow the precautionary protective guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Click to find out more and to find a testing location nearest you.

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Call 877-692-8686 to schedule your youth or child physical and immunization today!  Safe, In-person Appointments. Read more about our Patient Safety measures.

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Aunt Martha’s Heroes!

We are proud of the enthusiasm and commitment of our staff in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Here are a few pics from various locations!

News

December 11, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s featured in the latest installment of CBS This Morning’s Vaccinating America series

October 15, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s mobile health unit offers free COVID-19 testing

October 8, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s teams with State Rep. Kathleen Willis, Senate President Don Harmon to curb spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable communities

September 14, 2020 – Watch the Video: Aunt Martha’s Virtual Fundraiser is a Success 

September 4, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s health care provides thousands of masks in underserved communities

September 1, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s, County Board Commissioner Deborah Sims team to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Chicago’s most vulnerable communities

August 13, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s receives grant from Live Healthy Chicago supporting services at Illinois’ only center for DCFS youth affected by COVID-19

July 8, 2020 – Raul Garza Addresses Racial Inequities and Health Disparities on Chicago Tonight, WTTW-Chicago

July 6, 2020 – Dr. Forrest Moore, Carrie Muehlbauer Bring New Perspectives, Expertise to Aunt Martha’s Leadership Team

June 30th, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s Teams with UIC John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic in Civil Rights Case against Village of Midlothian

June 23rd, 2020 – Chicago Bears Legend Mike Singletary Discusses COVID-19 Study and Testing Offered at Aunt Martha’s

June 11, 2020 – A Memo from Raul Garza, President & CEO – A Continued Call-to-Action

June 11, 2020 – Raul Garza Elected VP of Board of Directors of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago

June 1, 2020 – A Memo From Our President & CEO Raul Garza to Staff on, Standing Up To Racial Injustice

May 27, 2020 – U.S. District Court Grants Temporary Restraining Order against Village of Midlothian

May 18, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s seeks Emergency Temporary Restraining Order to keep Village of Midlothian from closing Center for DCFS Youth affected by COVID-19

May 12, 2020 – Aunt Martha’s sues the Village of Midlothian citing Violations of the Fair Housing Act relating to the state’s first children’s quarantine center for DCFS Wards affected by COVID-19

May 1, 2020 – President & CEO Raul Garza Keynote Speaker in Virtual Forum on Behavioral Telehealth & COVID-19

About Aunt Martha's

Aunt Martha’s is a health and wellness not-for-profit organization serving over 105,000 children and adults throughout over 600 communities in Illinois. Through our Integrated Care Model, we provide primary and family health care, including behavioral health, pediatrics, family planning, parent support, and women’s health.  We are also a licensed child welfare provider with foster care and intact family services. Our Integrated Care Center serves to stabilize DCFS involved youth and prepare them for long term placement.