Grants & Scholarships

Many victims of the pandemic never got COVID

We are working with our grantee partners on efforts in economic security, education, and health that are aimed at eliminating inequality and racial disparities. Here is one grantee's story.

The impact of COVID-19 on Rhode Islanders has been front page news for a year. The numbers are carefully tabulated and regularly published: how many have tested positive, are in the hospital, in intensive care, and how many — most tragically —have died.

The serious behavioral health impacts of the pandemic have received less attention. Rhode Islanders most in need have faced a disproportionate behavioral health burden, reinforcing existing inequities. Our focus in addressing these inequities is reflected in our Healthy Lives strategic initiative, as well as our long-term health planning efforts.

One organization addressing behavioral health concerns, with a keen eye on addressing disparities, is Newport Mental Health (NMH). “We’re trying to address all the needs that are increasing due to COVID,” states Jamie Lehane, president & CEO.

The Foundation is proud to have supported these efforts. Grants from the COVID-19 Response Fund helped the organization implement telehealth solutions for clients and provide emergency personal protective equipment (PPE) for clinicians who work face-to-face with community members. Funds also assisted with efforts to house Newport County’s homeless individuals.

“COVID required us to put telehealth at the top of our priorities, and it’s allowed us to regularly check in with each and every one of our 1,100 clients. Face-to-face interactions are critical with our more acute and seriously ill population, and we’ve gotten PPE and are rotating staff days for social distancing to accommodate those clients. The chronically homeless have tremendous social and behavioral needs. Working with a collaboration of partners, we’ve been able to get them into safe shelter settings and are working toward permanent apartments,” Jamie states.

With many children and parents unable to access services in schools and other community members struggling with isolation and/or joblessness, grants from the Foundation’s COVID-19 Behavioral Health Fund helped fund the hiring of a licensed clinician to address these pressing needs.

Cindy Gordon, chief clinical officer and director of community services, shares, “COVID has impacted our ability to socialize. We’re seeing increased stress among children and families as a result of remote learning. We’re providing training for teachers and support for both children and parents, but we won’t know the full impact until we’re on the other side of this.”

Given its overall focus on helping meet the need of its clients, NMH also assisted its partners in the community in ensuring they could meet increased demand for services. NMH supported the Newport Housing Hotline, which provides emergency housing for people in Newport County, in accessing additional funding from the Rhode Island Nonprofit Support Fund (a joint program of the Foundation and the Rhode Island Executive Office of Commerce leveraging CARES Act dollars).

“Our staff is rising to the challenges admirably. We’re all looking at equity and have pivoted strongly to connect with folks who are lower income and have greater vulnerability. And the community has come together, with people working together the way we should, especially around the area of homelessness,” Jamie says positively. “That’s one good thing that’s happened during the pandemic.”