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WSSU graduate, CSEM Fellow join doctor in East Winston effort

Dr. Lindsay Peral and Sarah Hines

WSSU graduate, CSEM Fellow join doctor in East Winston effort
June 03
11:23 2021

By John Railey

Winston-Salem State University’s Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM) has long stressed economic development in East Winston. Now, one of its Research Fellows and a WSSU graduate have joined forces with a local doctor in starting a nonprofit that will align with that effort, the Unity Wellness Center.

The Fellow, Michele Lewis, serves on the advisory board and embraces the goals of the Unity Wellness Center that WSSU graduate Sara Hines and Dr. Lindsay Peral plan to open in the fall, helping with mental health, holistic health, health equity and addiction recovery.  “The targeted population will be residents of East Winston, who are among the most disenfranchised in the city,” Lewis said.

CSEM realizes inequities in healthcare thwart upward economic mobility. It strives to help people improve health outcomes by collaborating with health-services partners, researching best practices, funding community-based organizations, and innovating new programs.

Lewis is an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences whose CSEM research has included establishing a discussion group among Black mothers in East Winston who help one another with challenges of healthcare, education, jobs and transportation. One of her former students is Hines, who will serve as the center’s director of peer-support services. She is a Virginia native who graduated from WSSU in 2017 with a degree in psychological sciences. Her lived experience includes growing up in foster care and being homeless. She raised her children in the Cleveland Avenue, Happy Hills, and Boston-Thurmond public housing projects.

“I credit WSSU as really giving my outward voice to speak up, and Dr. Lewis’ course, Gender Studies, was the most challenging thing I have ever done,” said Hines, who currently works with her son in his home renovation business. “Dr. Lewis gave us the space to speak about things that normally aren’t spoken about. She gave us space.”

Hines and Peral, a family practice doctor, are raising money to start the center, which will be located in East Winston. Hines, 53, and Peral, 46, met while both were taking part in protests for social justice in downtown Winston-Salem. Peral and her daughter were moved by the poetry Hines performed at the protests, and wrote her a grateful poetic response.

 “We come from very different experiences,” Peral said. “I was born with certain privileges and have not been on the receiving end of discrimination. But we share a love of community.”

Hines said: “While we may seem very different, we are a perfectly cliched example of ‘More things unite than divide us.’ We are both human.”

They talked about ways to help residents of low resources to rise, and arrived at the idea of the center. Peral will be the center’s community health director. Hines will help residents of all ages connect with health services. “Peer support can span every aspect of a person’s life,” she said.

The center will also offer arts-based healing programs, and an initiative to help released offenders, the Formerly Incarcerated Transition (FIT) program. Released offenders will be connected with physical and mental health services and substance-abuse treatment. Hines and Peral say the center will also help clients with all aspects of re-entry, including housing, job training, legal needs, education and life-skills.

The mental health aspect is especially important. Because our state’s system of public mental health care is flawed, people with mental challenges and those of substance abuse often land in jails and prison, instead of receiving adequate treatment. The re-entry effort in general aligns with CSEM, which emphasizes such efforts as right for the released offenders and their families and practical for employers seeking good employees.

Peral said the Unity Wellness Center will concentrate on “the health-wealth gap,” the disparities in healthcare that adversely affect economic mobility. That is sorely needed.

John Railey (raileyjb@nullgmail.com) is the writer-in-residence for CSEM, www.wssu.edu/csem.

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