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Overcoming Community Epidemics from the Inside

You can’t turn on the news or open your local paper without being reminded of the opioid epidemic that plagues so many of our families and communities. Children are attempting and committing suicide at higher rates than we’ve ever seen. (Plemmons, 2018) Random violence in many towns and cities is on the rise. (Sanburn & Johnson, 2017) Community epidemics happen everywhere; they have no prejudice.

Major Events and Transitions

Major events or transitions in a community can create an imbalance of stressors and resources in the families impacted and the community as a whole. This is always worse when people are not prepared. The resulting stress can lead to an increase in substance use disorder and mental health challenges. It can also cause an increase in physical illness, and be the beginning of epidemics, widespread violence, marginalization and abuse of power, to name a few. Reading all of these news headlines can leave you feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. We’d like to offer you another option: hope and resilience.

Helping Communities Heal

Dr. Judith Landau, founder of the ARISE® Network, is also the founder of the LINC® Foundation. With the LINC® Foundation she has worked with communities all over the world to help them heal from the emotional aftermath of war, drug and HIV/AIDS epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters. Like ARISE®, LINC® believes that individuals, families, and communities are intrinsically healthy and competent.


Many times in the aftermath of a community disaster, government and humanitarian agencies send professionals to “take care of the problem”. Inevitably, when they’re “done” (or more often, when funding and resources run out), they leave. At that point, communities can be subjected to additional instability as resources are ripped out from under them, with no plan in place for the community to move forward. Using the LINC® model, professionals are brought in to learn about the community’s strengths,

traditions, and sources of pride. They then work with local community members or natural change agents to serve as Family and Community Links between the professionals and the people who are directly impacted. They create safe spaces for people to heal and rediscover their resilience.

The professionals provide the process, but the plans, actions, and content are provided by the community; the people who know best what is needed. Professionals become redundant and the Links remain in place for long-term recovery and healing. They are trained to participate in the healing process, remain embedded in the community and work with the community to create long-term goals and workable tasks. In this way, when the professionals leave, the community is strengthened and able to continue their own work. This also better prepares the community for future challenges.


The Boston Miracle: Cutting Youth Violence by 79%

In this 2015 TED Talk, Rev. Jeffrey Brown shares how he basically stumbled on to using community links to help cut youth violence in Boston by 79%. It’s a fascinating talk worth watching. “An architect of the “Boston miracle,” Rev. Jeffrey Brown started out as a bewildered young pastor watching his Boston neighborhood fall apart around him, as drugs and gang violence took hold of the kids on the streets.” He worked hard to reach the kids on the streets. He tried different sermons at church to connect, but it wasn’t until he started walking the streets at night until the early hours of the morning that he actually began to reach them. He learned to stop preaching and start listening. Once trust was earned, he was able to bring community links together and things changed for the better – drug dealers sitting across from preachers, sitting across from police, all with the same goal: to make their community stronger and healthier.

“We stopped looking at them as the problem to be solved. We started looking at them as partners, as assets, as co-laborers in the struggle to reduce violence in the community.” ~Rev. Jeffrey Brown

If you’re interested in learning more about how Links work, check out Dr. Landau’s papers on her work in Post-War Kosovo, the AID’s Epidemic in Buenos Aires, and the 9/11 terrorist attack. If you want to learn why Dr. Landau regards addiction as resilience, visit her TedX talk here.

If you are part of a community or know of a community dealing with stress and turmoil and are interested in learning more, please check out the LINC® Foundation.








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