Metropolitan Human Services District (MHSD), local churches and the Imani Breakthrough Project, a Yale University based program aimed at fighting the opioid crisis, came together Tuesday (July 18) at New Hope Baptist Church to unveil a new partnership to launch the groundbreaking initiative in New Orleans.

A collaborative project, Imani Breakthrough is a culturally centered, community-driven faith-based recovery program designed to assist individuals, families, and neighborhoods affected by opioid addiction.

The Project was developed by Dr. Ayana Jordan, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University and Dr. Chyrell Bellamy, social worker, Yale professor of psychiatry and director of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health. The program has been hosted in churches across Connecticut and in Rhode Island.

Dr. Bellamy was in New Orleans, joining local leaders to announce the partnership and sharing with The New Orleans Tribune a little about how the program developed.

“(Dr. Ayana Jordan and I) came together to really figure out a way to provide services for people in recovery in the Black an Latino communities.” Dr. Bellamy said. “ Instead of just focusing on addiction, we anted to figure out ways to uplift communities, to get individuals to focus on their hopes and dreams. As a person, a professor, I also have my own lived experiences with addiction. I know that is powerful to have the support of community.”

An intervention program embedded within churches in the Latino and Black communities, the Imani Breakthrough Project uses the core principles of cultural sensitivity, community engagement, and the power of faith. Recognizing the unique needs and challenges faced by individuals within diverse communities, this initiative strives to address the opioid epidemic through a holistic and inclusive approach.

“We focus on the eight dimensions of wellness – spiritual, emotional, physical financial, environmental, social, intellectual and occupational wellness, along with the five R’s of citizenship – roles, responsibilities, relationships, resources and rights,” Said Dr. Bellamy.

The program is comprised of two programs over six months. There are twelve weeks of classes and activities that focus on wellness enhancement, followed by 12 weeks of wrap-around support and coaching.

“We firmly believe that effective recovery programs should honor and respect the cultural backgrounds, traditions, and faith of the individuals seeking support,” stated Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham, executive and medical director at MHSD. “By incorporating these essential elements into our program, we hope to empower individuals on their journey to recovery while strengthening the fabric of our communities.”

Some members of the New Orleans City Council were also showed up to celebrate the launch of the in New Orleans. Both District C Councilman Freddie King and District D Councilman Eugene Green talked about both the need for an increased focus on addiction treatment and their hope for a positive impact of this program.

“You don’t have to walk to far out these doors to see that this program is needed,” said District C City Councilman Freddie King. I’m excited that this is happened and to see the great things that are to come as a result of this project. The city needs it.”

Green characterized the announcement as a somber celebration that draws attention to the severity of addiction and substance abuse problems throughout New Orleans.

“I am pleased to be here in celebration of the fact that Yale has introduced this program to New Orleans,” Green said. “We know how terrible murder is in our city. There were 265 of them in 2022. But not many of us know that there were 505 deaths from overdoses in our small city last year. So let us be thankful that Yale, New Hope, and Metropolitan Human Services District for putting together this program that is going to work with people.”

By combining faith-based practices and comprehensive services, the program seeks to meet the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of participants, fostering a sense of belonging and hope. Through its innovative approach, the project seeks to establish a sustainable model that can be replicated in other communities grappling with the opioid crisis.

“I wanted New Hope to be a part of Imani because Imani has proven to provide a system of support to individuals struggling with addictions in other communities. The Imani Project facilitators will strategically engage a segment of the community that many have deemed hopeless,” says Rev. Jamaal Weathersby, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, a partner in the Imani Breakthrough Project.

Both Rev. Weathersby and John E. Pierre, pastor of Greater Living Witness Church of God in Christ, which has also partnered with the local launch of the Imani Breakthrough Project, say they see the collaboration with MSHD and the Imani Project as a way to get additional tools and resources to do work they have are already doing.

“Our mission is to reach out and make a difference in the community,” says Rev. Pierre, adding that Greater Living Witness, has operated a recovery program for men about 20 years.

For more information on the Imani Breakthrough Project in New Orleans,  call MHSD at 504-568-3130 or visit

We Are Proud to Have Served Our Community for 38 Years. Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Providing a Trusted Voice. We Look Forward to 38 More!