Blue Fund Awards $2.5 Million to 12 WNY Non-Profit Organizations

—Grants Support Initiatives that Improve Key Community Health Outcomes—

Buffalo, NY BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York has awarded $2.5 million in grants to 12 major health-based projects across Western New York that will have a positive impact on behavioral health, cardiovascular health, diabetes, health-care workforce development, healthy children, and the opioid epidemic.

These grants follow a $2.7 million investment from the Blue Fund in 2018 that supported nine projects that are already benefitting the community. This includes the completion of two new playground builds at Mayors Park in North Tonawanda and Martin Luther King Jr. Park in the City of Buffalo; the opening of a medically-oriented gym at Jericho Road; and the design and programming of the Western New York Land Conservancy’s DL&W Corridor Trail.

“As the region’s largest not-for-profit health plan, we’re committed to supporting initiatives that strengthen and enrich our community,” said David W. Anderson, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York president and CEO. “Western New York has already seen positive and tangible health outcomes from last year’s Blue Fund grant recipients, and we know that this year’s grants will only further that impact.”

The community-based health plan launched the Blue Fund in July 2018, to support organizations and initiatives that work collaboratively to address key health areas and demonstrate enhanced measurable outcomes for the community.

These grants, funded from the health plan’s strong reserves, were awarded in addition to the health plan’s current corporate partnerships and sponsorships, which saw investments of more than $2 million in Western New York in 2018.

Below are the recipients of the 2019 Blue Fund awards:

Boys & Girls Clubs Collaborative of Western New York              Amount Awarded: $300,000

Purpose: To support Fearless Fridays. The Healthy Kids Program will offer classroom and physical activities throughout the day. Each club will learn indoor farming through building and maintaining a tower garden — a vertical growing system that grows herbs, vegetables, and flowers in less than three square feet. Children will also take part in food prep, proper handling of produce, and healthy cooking.

Focus areas: healthy children; behavioral health; cardiovascular health; diabetes

Compeer Buffalo                                                                                                                      Amount Awarded: $210,000

Purpose: To support Compeer Maryvale Leaders. AmeriCorps members will provide mental wellness mentoring in the Maryvale School District. In one-on-one sessions, students will develop an action plan using the Casey Life Skills Assessment. This approach leads to increased confidence and trust, fostering talk about mental health, and ways to improve well-being. Compeer will also provide trainings to parents and offer mental health first-aid training to district teachers and staff.

Focus area: behavioral health

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County                                        Amount Awarded: $300,000

Purpose: To support the Buffalo Healthy Corner Store Initiative. The Buffalo Healthy Corner Store Initiative will address limited healthy food access in underserved communities and neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo by working with corner store owners and consumers to improve diet-related behaviors and outcomes. A youth program in partnership with Say Yes Buffalo will create messaging around healthy snacking and the importance of breakfast.

Focus areas: cardiovascular health; diabetes; healthy children

Council on Addiction Recovery Services, Inc.                                         Amount Awarded: $150,000

Purpose: To support the Recovery Coach Expansion Project. This program will expand the reach of recovery coaches to more strongly address substance-use disorder. Participants will begin their journey as a paid intern and transition to a peer recovery coach through a training and certification process. The initiative will result in an increase in peer recovery coaches that can transport clients to appointments or court dates.

Focus area: opioid epidemic

Directions in Independent Living, Inc.                                                                Amount Awarded: $287,000

Purpose: To support Directions: A Mobile Behavioral Health Project. A behavioral health van will provide supportive services to youth, young adults, and families living in isolated rural communities and underserved urban neighborhoods in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. The program will provide direct services, workshops, peer support, and highly focused social and recreational activities to these communities with the goal of connecting youth and families facing behavioral health challenges.

Focus areas: behavioral health; cardiovascular health; diabetes; healthy children

Gateway Longview                                                                                                       Amount Awarded: $150,000

Purpose: To support the School Mental Health Outpatient Clinic & Training. Gateway Longview, in collaboration with UBMD Psychiatry and Niagara Falls City School District, will open satellite outpatient mental health clinics embedded within four Niagara Falls elementary schools. These clinics will eliminate the transportation barrier to treatment while providing therapy to individuals, groups, and families. Administrators and teachers will also have access to behavioral health training.

Focus areas: behavioral health; healthy children 

Gerard Place                                                                                                                             Amount Awarded: $274,000

Purpose: To support the Gerard Place Workforce Development Collaborative. This program will recruit and train qualified candidates for jobs in health care careers including certified nurse assistants, home health aides, and licensed practical nurses. The goal is to reduce the impact of poverty and unemployment in the Bailey-Delavan neighborhood. Support services for early childhood education, high school equivalency certification, soft skill development, and financial management will be offered as well.

Focus areas: health care workforce development; healthy children

Kids Escaping Drugs                                                                                                      Amount Awarded: $156,000

Purpose: To support the Face2Face Program Expansion. This initiative will focus on expanding the scope and reach of vaping education for area middle and high school students, as well as parents. Other resources will include webinars and virtual programming focused on vaping. Curriculum for Face2Face Summer Camp will also be developed. Funding will be used to hire new staff, create promotional materials, and purchase equipment.

Focus areas: opioid epidemic; healthy children

Massachusetts Avenue Project                                                                         Amount Awarded: $100,000

Purpose: To support Growing Green. This program will expand access to healthy food in the City of Buffalo through growing, cooking, and nutrition education opportunities. Food sold at market sites will be equipped to take food stamps; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits; and Double Up Food Bucks. The program will continue to work with the Buffalo Public School District to support increased local food procurement in schools.

Focus areas: healthy children; behavioral health; cardiovascular health; diabetes

Mental Health Advocates of Western New York                                                Amount Awarded: $240,000

Purpose: To support Youth Peer Advocates. This initiative will expand the current Youth Peer Advocates Program to assist middle and high school students in recognizing and addressing mental health challenges. Youth peer advocates will facilitate presentations on mental health in schools, provide various resources, identify student mental health champions at each school, facilitate peer-led support groups in high schools, and more.

Focus areas: behavioral health; healthy children; opioid epidemic

Population Health Collaborative                                                                                   Amount Awarded: $273,000

Purpose: To support Live Well WNY. The 3-4-50 model explains that three behaviors (lack of exercise, poor diet, and tobacco use) lead to four diseases (cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and lung disease) that contribute to over 50% of all deaths. Funding for this program will strengthen partnerships, enhance collaboration, and increase visibility to drive change. Specific activities will include community engagement, facilitated conversations, and research.

Focus areas: cardiovascular health; diabetes; healthy children 

Willie Hutch Jones Educational & Sports Programs                                Amount Awarded: $100,000

Purpose: English as a second language (ESL) professionals will educate students on the benefits of proper health and fitness lifestyles in their native languages. The initiative will develop student recruitment aids and replicate successful current programming including Math Club, STEAM Camp for Girls, STEAM activities, soccer, chess, dance, tennis, golf, basketball, swimming, volleyball, football, and crew.

Focus areas: healthy children; behavioral health

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