Keirri First and her mother, Sharita Butler-First bond over manicures during Girls Holla Back! Beauty Day activity.

On the heels of its new partnership with the University of Missouri–St. Louis, the Missouri Institute of Mental Health has been awarded a five-year $1.5 million grant to implement substance abuse, and HIV and AIDS prevention services for African-American females through its award winning Girls Holla Back! program.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded the grant under its Ready-To-Respond Initiative, which strives to engage experienced community-level domestic public and private nonprofit entities in preventing and reducing substance abuse and new HIV infection. MIMH will be one of 35 organizations across the country selected to receive this funding.

“This award allows MIMH to build on its previous accomplishments of providing evidence-based prevention services to communities of color. We will again focus on the African-American female population who are disproportionately affected by HIV or AIDS in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. We are excited about receiving this award because we can continue to help alleviate the impact that substance use has on minority populations and continue to assist in reducing the incidence of new HIV infection among minority women,” said Brendolyn Bailey-Burch, MIMH principal investigator for the grant.

The Center for Disease Control reports that African-Americans face a number of challenges that contribute to the higher rates of HIV infection. The HIV incidence rate for black women is nearly 15 times as high as that of white women, and nearly four times that of Hispanic/Latino women.

Additionally, casual and chronic substance users may be more likely to engage in unprotected sex under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

The Girls Holla Back! program will run two groups of 60 participants per year who will meet for a total of eight weeks, twice a week, for three hours each session. Eligible participants include African-American girls who are 12-17 years old and their adult female guardians. Along with drug,s and HIV and AIDS prevention education, the program will continue to offer free on-site HIV testing, cross-generational cultural bonding activities and workshop sessions to help build youth and adult communications about sexual health. This initiative also will help develop a campaign to promote important prevention messages throughout five St. Louis neighborhoods reporting high incidences of drug use and HIV and AIDS cases.

MIMH is dedicated to providing research, evaluation, policy and training expertise to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, other state agencies, service provider agencies, and other organizations and individuals seeking information related to mental health and other related policy areas.

Located in St. Louis, MIMH consists of 100 researchers and staff generating $6.5 million in research grants.

UMSL is a public metropolitan research university located in Missouri’s most populous and economically important region. UMSL provides exceptional learning experiences and leadership opportunities to a diverse student body through the university’s outstanding faculty, ranked programs, innovative research and community partnerships. The university includes over 16,500 students served by 2,500 faculty and staff.

MIMH is a unit of the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

More information:
314-877-6487 or

Kylie Shafferkoetter

Kylie Shafferkoetter