UnitedHealthcare awarded $1 million in Empowering Health grants to four community-based organizations in Washington state to expand access to care and address social determinants of health for individuals who are uninsured and for communities that are underserved.
Investing inlocal organizations that are solving community health and social issues supports their goals and helps them achieve more. With additional funds, these groups can help more people, leading to healthier communities and improved equity.
The four grant recipients in Washington are:
- University of Washington School Mental Health Assessment, Research, and Training (SMART) Center in partnership with the Richland and Medical Lake School Districts – $600,000 to strengthen an evidence-based comprehensive school mental health and suicide prevention model.
- The American Indian Community Center, Goodheart Behavioral Health, Spokane – $150,000 to hire a mental health clinician who specializes in therapeutic interventions for the Native American community and to increase the number of community members served.
- Perinatal Support Washington, statewide – $162,500 to train and employ more interns and therapists from various racial and ethnic backgrounds to address gaps in perinatal mental health care for Medicaid-eligible and pro bono clients who have difficulty finding providers.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Yakima, Yakima, Wapato and Toppenish – $87,500 to expand the “Ending the Silence” mental health awareness program and to ensure it is culturally relevant and responsive for high-school students who are Native American and Hispanic high-school students in school districts on the Yakama Indian Reservation.
Helping local organizations address area health challenges
The grants are addressing regional health challenges in communities throughout Washington. There are three Indigenous communities near Spokane and all are experiencing an increase in fentanyl seizures and overdose deaths related to the drug.1 These grants allow local groups to help address the fentanyl crisis in a way that meets the needs of their individual community and, specifically, the needs of Native Americans.
Goodheart Behavioral Health provides holistic, culturally sensitive mental health and substance use disorder treatment that considers generational trauma and post-traumatic stress that is specific to members of the Native American community.
Goodheart Behavioral Health used the money it received to hire a full-time mental health provider, who is a cultural therapist licensed in mental health counseling. The organization, which serves about 80 clients a year, expects to more than double the number of people they can serve to approximately 150 clients annually.
Strengthening suicide prevention
Richland and Medical Lake School Districts will use their grant to bolster their response to suicide prevention. They will also be able to deepen outreach for students struggling with depression, anxiety, and mental health issues. The money will support parent-led suicide prevention work through University of Washington’s Asking IS Caring program as part of an evidence-based comprehensive school mental health model.
The two school districts serve more than 15,500 students. Schools are the most common setting where youth receive mental health services in the United States, according to the University of Washington School Mental Health Assessment, Research, and Training (SMART) Center.2
Supporting health beyond the health care setting
According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, approximately 80% of what influences a person’s health relates to nonmedical factors, such as access to food, housing and transportation and the financial means to pay for basic daily needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional social and economic challenges that continue to affect healthy behaviors and exacerbate health disparities.
One third of members screened by UnitedHealthcare experience at least one social determinant of health. UnitedHealthcare leverages the company’s data to identify health disparities according to race, ethnicity, gender, geography and education level.
Since launching its Empowering Health commitment in 2018, UnitedHealthcare has invested more than $51 million in Empowering Health grants, reaching more than 8 million people through partnerships with community-based organizations in 30 states and the District of Columbia.