What began as a workshop to help children and families has turned into an ongoing Lunch & Learn program, a series of six free workshops annually that focus on the betterment of children and families.
Tazewell County Health Department Educator Julie Herzog said the program resulted from the Tazewell County All Our Kids: Early Childhood Network (AOK), which is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services. AOK began in 1999, and Tazewell County is one of the original 10 counties to receive the AOK grant in the state.
There are 40 active organizations from the Tri-County Area in the AOK network, which strive to improve outcomes for families. During initial assessments between area health departments and other groups, behavioral health was a topic that came up to be addressed.
“As a network, we felt it was important that community people or community professionals dealing with families had the right skills and knowledge to work with families better,” Herzog said.
That’s when Lunch & Learn began. Six free workshops were scheduled in 2017 and dealt with topics such as drug trends, autism, and work/life balance.
“Really our target area is birth to 5, however, we know that it doesn’t always just stop there. We need to work across different ages,” said Herzog, who is also the AOK coordinator.
The Lincoln Prairie Behavioral Health Center in Springfield partnered with the Tazewell County AOK to provide the lunches and the continuing education units for attendees.
During its first year, 225 professionals attended the workshops. The program was considered a success.
“Looking at the overall sign up registrations or sign-in lists, there were some of the same people, but each time, we reached a new group,” Herzog said.
She then approached Lincoln Prairie about continuing the program into 2018, and six more workshops were planned.
As the year comes to a close, Lincoln Prairie pushed to continue the Lunch & Learn into 2019. Herzog said the AOK members had a unanimous vote to move forward.
The free workshops can serve up to 50 people and continuing education units are still offered for workers who need them for their professional license. About 85 percent of those attending are business professionals, while 15 percent are community members.
“Overall, with 2017 and 2018, we’ve had about 435 professionals go through these trainings,” Herzog said. “So, I think they’ve been very successful. … and it’s been exciting.”
The topics come from those in the network, Herzog said, adding that people are asked: “What are you seeing? What do you feel that is bubbling up, and what do you feel that you need the most information on?” Herzog said she thinks one of the most important topics today is drugs, particularly the opioid epidemic.
So far, the 2019 workshops for January, March and May will be about Wounded Places/PTSD on children, Adverse Childhood Experiences, and Brain Architecture/Development. The meetings are set in various places in Tazewell County. The format is lunch first, followed by the presentation.
The next Lunch & Learn Workshop will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 9 at Faith Lutheran Child Care Center, 650 School St., Washington, Ill. The topic will be on Trauma-Informed Care. Presenter Rob Hittmeier, COO of Lincoln Prairie Behavioral Health Center, will focus on the history of PTSD, understanding the impact of trauma and treatment interventions and more.
All of the workshops are open to anyone. The registration deadline for the next Lunch & Learn is Nov. 7. For more information or to register, call Julie Herzog at 929-0266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.