In an area dubbed by the Violence Policy Center as “the most dangerous place in the United States to be an African-American,” North Omaha’s predominantly black residents have voiced the need to address mental health in their community. Heartland Family Service’s North Omaha Intergenerational Campus (NOIC) is a hub where we will leverage existing community assets to address social determinants of health (SDOH) contributing to mental health disparities in one of Omaha’s most high-need areas. Utilizing the Self-Healing Communities Model (SHCM), our core organizational partners seek to empower residents through meaningful engagement to offer appropriately matched resources.


BUILD and its communities apply bold, upstream, integrated, local, and data-driven (BUILD) approaches to improve health in communities that are adversely affected by upstream factors.


Omaha, Nebraska, has never undertaken a project like this before. While health systems often work together in various ways, they have been challenged when engaging with hard-to-reach, marginalized populations in meaningful ways. Our project boldly calls for a comprehensive, sustainable approach to solving mental health disparities by redistributing the decision-making power in a way that holds the health systems and community organizations accountable to residents acting in their own interests.


This North Omaha community experiences severe upstream issues which contribute to larger health inequities, and nearly all affect mental health through trauma. While Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) pertain to traumatic experiences at the individual level, traumatic community environments also contribute to toxic stress. To get to the root of this trauma at all levels, we will confront SDOH that create socioeconomic conditions affecting mental health.


To empower residents to heal their mental health at every level, we must go beyond hospital and clinic walls to integrate public, private, and nonprofit sectors in a shared vision of what a safe and healthy community looks like. Each Omaha BUILD partner’s respective strategic plan prioritizes behavioral health as a key focus area and, by bringing everyone – including residents – to the table, together we can systemically create a culture of health in our community.


For too long, North Omaha residents have seen too many agencies come into their community to start programs and leave when funding runs out. Our truly local approach calls on partners to recalibrate the balance of power when solving community health issues, shifting the decision-making to the residents themselves so they can address mental health in ways meaningful to their community. Only with the residents’ guidance can we successfully create a lasting impact.


Data – both quantitative and qualitative – will be consistently analyzed to inform project focus and strengthen ongoing practices, dependent on resident-determined action plans. Selected, developed, and implemented by residents, each plan will include measurable indicators of impact specific to its health priorities. All data and findings will be shared to inform and strengthen health promotion and self-sufficiency practices for the neighborhood, the health systems, and the broader community.