Media release

Nonprofits get $1.375 million to improve behavioral health services across RI

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded $1.375 million in grants focused on improving behavioral health across the state.

The Rhode Island Foundation today announced that it has awarded $1.375 million in grants focused on improving behavioral health across the state.

“These are extraordinarily stressful times for so many people in our state. Existing behavioral health challenges have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19. These grants focus on addressing disparities in access to behavioral health services and substance use treatment that are having a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, including communities of color,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

The seven nonprofit organizations that received funding will work in collaboration with community partners to tackle the behavioral health challenges of underserved populations in Central Falls, Cranston, West Warwick, Woonsocket, Newport County and South County. All seven proposals align with the Foundation’s long-term plan for health that has been endorsed by the Governor’s office and legislative leaders.

The Center for Health and Justice Transformation (CHJT) and ONE Neighborhood Builders (ONE|NB) received $100,000 to develop new models for affordable apartments that include supportive services for people who have been incarcerated.

“The target populations are recently incarcerated people ages 55 plus who have chronic medical conditions resulting in disability. We will propose housing types and subsidies, while CHJT will recommend a supportive service model,” said Jennifer Hawkins, ONE|NB’s president and executive director.

This work will build on the efforts of CHJT’s Lifespan Transitions Clinic, which provides primary care and supportive services to individuals who were recently incarcerated and have multiple chronic health issues.

“We’ve learned many lessons over the years from our Transitions Clinic, and housing remains an indelible factor in long term successful health and social outcomes. We are thankful for our partnership with ONE Neighborhood Builders and the support from the Rhode Island Foundation,” said Mavis Nimoh, CHJT’s executive director.

The Children and Youth Cabinet (CYC) was awarded $250,000 to provide behavioral health care and prevention programs designed specifically for Latino youth and their families. The CYC is working with the Central Falls School District.

“We employ a workforce that represents the residents of Central Falls to provide culturally relevant programming that we know leads to better retention, engagement and outcomes,” said Rebecca Boxx, CYC’s executive director. “We can best improve behavioral health equity by implementing specialized programs and services that speak directly to community members’ culture, ethnicity and unique needs because they have been designed by Hispanic/Latinx program developers.”

The programs include “Act and Adapt,” which addresses acute depression in youth of color; and “Familias Unidas,” a Spanish-language program for Latino, immigrant families.

The objectives are to screen 200 students for acute depression, to serve 120 students with “Act and Adapt,” to serve 132 students and 72 caretakers with "Familias Unidas;" and to train 200 educators.

“Latino youth are at greater risk for depression relative to youth of other ethnic groups and Latino and Black youth are less likely to receive services for depression and other internalizing problems,” said Boxx.

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Washington County, one of 15 state-designated Health Equity Zones, received $250,000 to hire youth organizers to work in four challenged communities in the region.

“These communities face significantly more medical, behavioral health, educational and socio-economic challenges than most of South County,” said Sue Orban, director of Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds. “There is a growing body of literature that suggests when youth are engaged and have a seat at the decision-making table, they present innovative and effective solutions.”

Each location already has a community health worker who will work with the youth organizers to connect young residents with appropriate behavioral health, social service and school supports.

The OneCranston Health Equity Zone received $250,000 to launch a family support center to improve the behavioral health of Cranston children and adolescents. As the health equity zone’s “backbone agency,” the Comprehensive Community Action Program will facilitate the work.

Located across from Bain Middle School, the center will provide a wide range of resources and services, including evidence-based parenting education and support, which will offer tools for building a foundation for emotionally healthy children and adolescents, and their families. The center is an intervention that builds on OneCranston Health Equity Zone's priorities around youth opportunity and community trauma.

“The goal is to promote responsive, strength-based parenting and reduce the incidence and impacts of adverse childhood experiences that often accompany family challenges such as mental health, domestic violence, substance use and instability, all of which have been worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sarah Cote, director of the health equity zone initiative. “This builds on our priorities around youth opportunity and community trauma.”

The Strategic Prevention Partnership received $125,000 to support the ‘No Wrong Door’ system of care in Newport County.

“Our initiative brings together a range of key local stakeholders from within and beyond the behavioral health sector, including participation from the Newport Health Equity Zone,” said Rebecca Elwell, director of the Newport County Prevention Coalition.

The grant will support the design and implementation of the Behavioral Health Community Council (BHCC) and the Interagency Care Coordination Team (ICCT). The BHCC, made up of local behavioral health providers and community stakeholders, is a governing council that will identify barriers to care, service gaps and determinants of health that will inform the system of care’s areas of focus. The ICCT will share information and collaborate on care for the clients with the most complex treatment needs.

“The vision is an engaged community collaborative that works together to ensure better behavioral health outcomes for all children and youth, especially those from under-resourced communities and with complex treatment needs,” said Elwell.

The West Warwick Healthy Equity Zone received $125,000 to lead a broad, community-driven planning initiative to help increase the supply of affordable housing in town. The work will be led by residents and several local organizations, including Better Lives Rhode Island, Women’s Development Corporation, Thrive Behavioral Health, Help the Homeless RI and Thundermist Health Center.

“We’re focused on ensuring residents have safe and affordable housing and are experiencing a mutually beneficial landlord relationship with a focus on health equity,” said Susan Jacobsen, senior director of health equity initiatives for Thundermist Health.

The partnership plans to strengthen partnerships with housing developers, the West Warwick Housing Authority and a range of health and human service providers to create sufficient affordable, supportive housing, specifically targeting people who have behavioral health challenges who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

“By increasing access to medical care, behavioral health care and housing as a package, we can ensure that people who are most vulnerable have access to the appropriate level of care in the community,” said Jacobsen.

Wendy Boudreau, a West Warwick resident and community organizer for the health equity zone, said she is excited about the initiative.

“There is a very high rate of people in our community who experience being cost burdened by housing. We need to increase the housing stock and improve access to safe, healthy and affordable homes. Our community needs this to continue to improve our health,” said Boudreau.

The Woonsocket Health Equity Zone received $250,000 to launch the “Child Friendly Woonsocket” initiative. The work will be led by the Health Equity Zone Steering Committee, which is comprised of residents and dozens of local organizations, including Thundermist Health, the Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association and the WATCH (Woonsocket Alliance to Champion Hope) Coalition.

“Places are child friendly when all children and families live in neighborhoods where people are connected to each other and to community resources that reinforce health and well-being,” said Thundermist Health's Jacobsen.

“We’re talking about creating and nurturing places where trusting relationships are built on a foundation of mutual respect, where cultural sensitivity and humility exist between residents of all ages, where children and youth live in safe, nurturing homes within families and communities that support healthy development,” she said.

The partnership will develop a data-driven strategy by engaging residents, including caregivers, youth, local partners and state agencies. The goal is to use the data to build a resilient community that addresses the social and structural determinants of good mental health.

“Our partners will seek to impact population-level health equity, including reducing police involvement in school discipline events, expediting child and caregiver behavioral health treatment; increasing the number of infant child care slots in Woonsocket and increasing on-time well visits to pediatricians,” said Jacobsen.

The Foundation received 39 applications. The recipients were selected based on how well they brought together clinical and community-based organizations, engaged residents, proposed measuring outcomes and leveraged other funding or in-kind support.

“We sought place-based initiatives that will bring together partners that have a shared vision and action plan to address the crucial social determinants of health,” said Foundation CEO Steinberg.

The funding is through the Foundation’s Fund for a Healthy Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $98 million and awarded $76 million in grants in 2021. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.