Rosie Quintanilla and team strive to provide a voice for community members

Rosie Quintanilla and team strive to provide a voice for community members

Ever since she was young, Rosie Quintanilla knew she wanted to be a voice for those who felt like they didn’t have one. As the Community Development Coordinator for the Frank J. Mrvan North Township Trustee’s Office, she’s been able to fulfill that goal.

“I grew up being bullied, and I didn’t really start standing up for myself until I was older. I also struggled with an eating disorder and ended up seeking help out of the country,” Quintanilla revealed. “I want to make sure that people who are in a vulnerable position, or who feel like they’re at their lowest point, realize that there are organizations out there able to help and that there are resources available for them.”

Quintanilla and her team cover a lot of ground. With Tavell Grant, Assistant Community Development Coordinator; Brittany Cooper, Community Support Specialist; and an IUN social work intern by her side, Quintanilla works with the autism community, veterans, and those with addictions, and creates partnerships with local agencies to develop programs, hold events, and provide resources.

Quintanilla, through her job, is active in many community organizations. She has been part of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana, Northwest Indiana Information Security and Sharing Alliance, OERT, opioid epidemic response team, and SART Sexual assault response team. She became a Narcan certified trainer, was accredited through the Department of Justice to become a representative for those seeking citizenship or naturalization through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, actively participates in Indiana’s Child Protection Team, serves as a Darkness to Light child sexual abuse trainer, and is a youth leader at her church.

“I try to use my skills to help anyone in need, but one of my biggest passions is working with teens,” she said.

Quintanilla and her team recently created the 13 Reasons Why Not program early this year as a direct response to the popular Netflix show that features mental health issues that teens face daily.

“We wanted to really focus on what the show failed to do, which is to show that resources and services are available out in the community that can help you overcome struggles and, most importantly, that suicide is not the answer,” Quintanilla said.

The program brought local high schoolers together to create a youth steering committee. They wrote editorials for about two months, were featured in a documentary created by the Frank J. Mrvan North Township Trustees Office and had an open panel discussion at a youth summit. The students also hosted a radio show on WJOB for 2 months. The summit involved multiple sessions and panels that gave teens the opportunity to be open about these sensitive and very real issues.

“The teens showed us that they want to have a voice,” Quintanilla said. “They want to be a part of the solution; teens are open to discussing their issues and creating positive outcomes."

Local high schools began requesting the program and asking social workers, including Quintanilla and her team, to provide suicide prevention training to staff and administration.

“It was great to have direct contact and conversations with those who see teens every day and are able to make an impact on their lives and feelings. We had a really good dialogue with everyone involved. Because it is a very sensitive topic, it’s important to bring professionals who specialize with these issues to properly help,” she said.

Quintanilla and her team also had a hand in creating Pieces to the Puzzle, a program that issues bright green bracelets with numbers on them for children with autism.

When an officer encounters a child with a bracelet, they’ll be able to look up the number on the bracelet on the law enforcement database to find the child’s emergency contacts. Since some individuals on the spectrum tend to run or lash out when they’re scared, the numbered bracelet also tells the officer the child’s calming mechanisms. The North Township Trustee’s Office equips all East Chicago Police vehicles with ‘Jasper boxes’ filled with items such as stress balls and other sensory calming items.

Quintanilla and her team are also very involved in the Township’s partnership with the Police Assistant Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI). Adopted by the Griffith Police Department, PAARI provides support and resources to help law enforcement agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery.

Anybody who has an addiction who comes within the scope of police work will be directed to a treatment facility that will accept them, regardless of insurance or ability to pay within 24 hours.

“When you’re dealing with someone with addiction, there is a very slim window of opportunity to be able to get them to a facility in a timely manner, so the 24-hour time span is extremely important and helpful,” Quintanilla said.

Quintanilla firmly believes that she is living her passion daily and hopes to continue helping people for the rest of her career.

“It’s so important to always make sure that those who feel most vulnerable get the help that they need. Most people don’t know where to go,” she said. “Social workers are is needed across the board in order to provide this help.”

She would like to thank the Frank J. Mrvan North Township Trustee for providing her with the opportunity to fulfill her goal of helping people.

“The multitude of services offered by the Township is amazing. I’ve never seen the local government so involved in outreach and working one-on-one with clients. I’m so grateful to work here and to continue to learn new things every day,” she said. “I urge community members to look into your local government because you would be surprised by all of the services offered.