HCN News & Notes

BCBSMA Foundation Awards More Than $850,000 in Mental-health Grants

BOSTON — The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation announced it has awarded more than $850,000 in grants through a new program, Advancing Community-Driven Mental Health, to improve access to mental-health services for adults experiencing mild to moderate distress and practical problems of daily living.

With its new, three-year grant program, the foundation is taking an innovative approach to challenges in mental healthcare by leveraging an intervention developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). This model, called Problem Management Plus (PM+), helps adults learn how to manage adversity and mental-health stressors in their day-to-day lives and provides community-based referrals to those at risk of developing severe mental-health challenges. The low-intensity psychological intervention also trains the non-clinical workforce to support people in mild to moderate mental-health distress.

“Given the current state of the behavioral-health crisis in Massachusetts, we believe it is critical to expand our knowledge of the role that non-clinical individuals can play in meeting the basic mental-health needs of communities in a more socially and culturally relevant way,” said Audrey Shelto, president and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “The WHO model is an evidence-based intervention with demonstrated success that we are eager to evaluate further through our new grant program and determine how it may be adopted more widely across the Commonwealth.”

The Advancing Community-Driven Mental Health grant program supports five nonprofit organizations that are focused on housing, senior services, support for people with disabilities, and other non-clinical initiatives that provide direct social or community services to individuals and families.

The following organizations have received $100,000 each through the first year of funding: Boston Senior Home Care, Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, Quincy Asian Resources Inc. Community Builders Inc., and one Western Mass.-based agency, Stavros Center for Independent Living in Amherst, which will implement the PM+ model to support people living with disabilities in who have difficulty getting mental-health services due to limited access to the internet and transportation.

In addition, the Foundation is providing a total of $355,779 in grant funding to its two technical-assistance partners, the Family Van and Partners in Health, which are supporting the development and implementation of the grant program. They are community-centered organizations with knowledge and experience with the PM+ model both locally and internationally.

“There is a need to increase the linguistic, racial, and cultural diversity of the behavioral-health workforce and to deliver mental-health interventions in settings where people are already receiving services and support,” said Jacquie Anderson, the Foundation’s senior director of Grantmaking. “With specialized training, non-clinical staff members at the community-based organizations supported by our grant program can play an important role in meeting the basic mental-health needs of individuals.”