Often local organizations will partner with the Stevenson Center to host Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) and Peace Corps Fellows graduate students for professional practice in the field. This 35-hour-per-week internship takes up the majority of the fellow’s second year and allows them to dive deeply into the work of one of our partner organizations. Krista Zampacorta is one such fellow studying political science and is currently interning at Chestnut Health Systems.
Chestnut provides quality care for those suffering from drug addiction, mental illness, and more. It also conducts research to better its own methods and share its findings with local and state government to improve policy. Starting in 1973, it was originally named the McLean County Drug and Alcohol Assistance Unit. Its mission has always been to “make a difference and improve the lives of the people that we serve,” said Joan Hartman former vice president of Strategy and Public Policy.
“We really started as a grassroots organization,” Hartman said. “At that time, people with alcohol use disorders were being placed in jail because there was no treatment for them.”
Those jails became known as drunk tanks. With that as a backdrop, Hartman said that a group of people got together and used a grant to start the Lighthouse Project.
“They have provided things we could not provide ourselves,” Hartman said in describing what a Stevenson Center Fellow brings to Chestnut. She added that fellows also know how to do research.
“Prior to Krista, we had two fellows who helped conduct a county-wide assessment on mental health and substance use disorders,” she said. “This year, Krista is helping us to devise a plan for supporting ongoing telehealth post-pandemic.”
Hartman hopes that fellows take away from the experience research skills, specifically for businesses that are operating.
“That’s more than researching for a paper or for a thesis,” she said, adding that fellows will “learn how to work collaboratively with various divisions within the organization.”
Both projects that fellows have worked on had reporting lines to Chestnut’s executive director.
“Fellows had the opportunity to get to know executive leadership within the organization and figure out the importance of their work for executive leadership,” Hartman said. “And, the Stevenson Center looks forward to being part of that.”
Hartman hopes that in the future Chestnut can help the state to support certified behavioral health clinics and expand these programs with the help of community partners.