The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio and its Foundation have announced a funding commitment targeting homelessness and mental health in southeast Ohio. The funds totaling $214,000 have been awarded to The National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio (NAMI) and the Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center. The funds represent one of the largest financial commitments southeast Ohio has ever received to address mental health and homelessness, interrelated societal issues that are nearly impossible to address separately.
“These smart, locally-focused partnerships have the potential to change lives and have a lasting impact,” said Ohio House of Representatives Majority Whip Jay Edwards (R-Athens). “This is an important step forward for our area. I appreciate Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation’s commitment to Southeast Ohio and their focus on the ‘whole health’ of people.”
The Foundation is partnering with community organizations and social service agencies to make progress on social determinants of health in southeast Ohio and throughout the state — factors like homelessness, food insecurity, unsafe neighborhoods, and others that impact people’s lives and create barriers to good health. Anthem Behavioral Health Medical Director Elizabeth Bonanno, M.D., says it’s part of a larger shift in how Anthem approaches its mission to focus on the whole person.
“Anthem is committed to improving lives and communities, and to do that we must focus on the whole health of a person. If someone is unsure where they’re going to sleep at night or struggling with other social barriers, they can’t focus on their health, which leads to poor health conditions. That is why it is important to deal with them in concert with health care treatment,” explained Dr. Bonanno. “These are difficult issues, but addressing them through creative community partnerships is a smart strategy.”
The funds will fund several initiatives in Athens and throughout southeast Ohio, including:
• NAMI of Ohio will use funds to provide financial incentives to landlords in surrounding communities to encourage them to take clients with mental health conditions. The funds will also be used to support clients leaving the Adam-Amanda MHRC to secure supportive housing by assisting them to become financially stable, obtain basic living supplies, and maintain their connection to outpatient mental health services.
• Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center in Athens – The Adam-Amanda MHRC will purchase an array of equipment to support physical health for patients as they receive mental health care, including fitness equipment, fitness trackers, and bicycles. Funds will also be used to support gardening, healthy cooking and artistic expression programs that contribute to long-term mental health. As patients transition from the center back to home, the funding from Anthem and its Foundation will be used to provide rent support, help with paying bills, vouchers for farmers markets, and home goods needed to create a stable home environment. Last fall, Anthem also provided a 16-passenger van to the Adam-Amanda MHRC to assist with patient transportation.
• SE Ohio Mental Health & Housing Instability Forum – as part of Anthem’s work with NAMI, the two organizations are planning Southeast Ohio Mental Health & Housing Stability Conference at Ohio University on Oct. 7, 2019. The event will bring together academics, care providers, community organizations and families to address issues specific to Southeast Ohio.
NAMI Ohio Executive Director Terry Russel says that the closely-related issues of homelessness and mental health are particularly critical in the 21-county region of Southeast Ohio where 20 percent of people discharged from psychiatric hospitals are likely to be homeless. He pointed out that 60 to 70 percent of people that are chronically homeless in the region suffer from mental health issues.
“NAMI Ohio recognizes that the current mental health system in Ohio is not meeting all of the needs of our severely mentally ill population, especially in southeastern Ohio,” said Russell. “That is the reason NAMI Ohio and other partners created the Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center where individuals leaving residential treatment can stay for up to 90 days while stabilizing and receiving services to help them transition back into the community.”
Through the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation’s funding, NAMI Ohio is also currently working to develop 90 beds of stable housing in the southeastern Ohio community where individuals will be able to go once they leave the Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center. The program provides funding to support landlords in southeast Ohio in making apartments and other rental properties available to people leaving treatment at Adam-Amanda Center.
“We often have to do what we can with the limited resources we have in this area. Anthem and its Foundation have given us the opportunity to create new possibilities for the future of mental health care in our 21-county southeast Ohio service area,” said Adam-Amanda MHRC Clinical Coordinator Margaret Sterling, LPCC-S. “As one example, we were able to work with a gentleman stuck in that revolving door for five years because of the lack of stable housing. But he graduated from our program in December and since then, he has been in the same apartment, seeing his treatment team regularly, and has not had any hospitalizations.”
Russell says mental health rehabilitation services such as those offered through the Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center should be made available in every community in Ohio and it is the goal of NAMI Ohio to make that a reality.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio (NAMI Ohio) is the statewide alliance that serves as the voice on mental illness. The organization is comprised of thousands of family members, individuals, advocates and professionals working together to ensure that Ohioans with mental illness and their loved ones receive the treatment and support they need. Additional information about NAMI Ohio is available at www.namiohio.org
About Hopewell Health Centers
Hopewell is a Community Mental Health Center and an FQHC providing Behavioral Health, Primary Care and Dental Services for all ages in nine counties in southeast Ohio. Hopewell Health Centers, Inc. mission is to provide access to affordable, high quality, integrated healthcare for all.
About Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation
Through charitable grant making, the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation LLC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, promotes Anthem’s inherent commitment to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield serves. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that make up its Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets: maternal health, diabetes prevention, cancer prevention, heart health and healthy, active lifestyles, behavioral health efforts and programs that benefit people with disabilities. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s year-round Dollars for Dollars program which provides a 100 percent match of associates’ donations, as well as its Volunteer Time Off and Dollars for Doers community service programs. ®ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. To learn more about the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, please visit http://www.anthem.foundation and its blog at https://medium.com/anthemfoundation
About Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio:
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name of Community Insurance Company, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Additional information about Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio is available at www.anthem.com