Blue & You Foundation Makes Endowment Grant to Social Work Program at A-State
LITTLE ROCK – The Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas announced $5.29 million in grants for behavioral health programs in Arkansas, including $530,000 to Arkansas State University.
To meet the unique needs of Arkansans, the grants will support programs that address behavioral health needs at all stages of life – from early childhood through adolescence, and into adulthood – along with helping to increase the number of behavioral health professionals in the state.
The Blue & You Foundation is a charitable foundation established and funded by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield to promote better health in Arkansas.
“We believe that addressing the behavioral healthcare needs of our state requires collaboration with local organizations that have demonstrated success in increasing access, improving outcomes and reducing stigma,” said Curtis Barnett, president and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross. “We recognize the impact behavioral health can have on the health of individuals, families, and communities as a whole. With these investments, we can help create healthier communities and give hope to those in need, while normalizing the conversation around behavioral health.”
Those selected for support include licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) programs at three Arkansas universities. One of those is the Department of Social Work in the College of Nursing and Health professions at Arkansas State University.
“The MSW Program and the entire Department of Social Work at A-State is grateful and humbled by this gift from the Blue & You Foundation,” department chair Dr. Cheryl Knight said. “This gift will not only benefit our MSW students who are interested in medical social work, it has the potential to benefit persons with mental health issues in Northeast Arkansas for years to come. Research shows the positive impact that Interprofessional Education (IPE) can have on Interprofessional Practice (IPP). This grant truly epitomizes IPE and will provide our students with real-world experience while in their internships.”
The Blue & You Foundation is providing $500,000 to provide Licensed Clinical Social Worker Endowments to expand the behavioral health workforce and train these specialists to practice in primary care settings. The endowment will support of the Master of Social Work program, which trains social workers.
Additionally, the foundation also is providing $30,000 to support start-up and administrative costs, making a total grant of $530,000 to Arkansas State University.
The Blue & You Foundation selected eight innovative programs to support, because addressing the behavioral health crisis requires a collaborative and coordinated approach.
“From the onset of our research and discovery process, we knew that we’d be more successful in achieving our goal to improve behavioral healthcare in Arkansas by finding established and proven programs within the Natural State,” said Rebecca Pittillo, executive director of the Blue & You Foundation. “As we engaged with organizations across the state, I was amazed at the innovative approaches to challenging issues and the tremendous results already achieved. The programs led by the grant recipients announced today will go a long way in helping provide immediate and long-term support for Arkansans in need.”
Across the United States, behavioral health conditions, including mental and substance use disorders, have been on the rise since 2014 and have risen even more sharply since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that incidents of suicide, along with symptoms of anxiety and depression, are prevalent in Arkansas at rates higher than the national average.
There is also an unmet need for behavioral healthcare in the state with 65.7% of adolescents reported having not received treatment for a major depressive episode, also significantly higher than the national average.
“Arkansas State really emphasizes experiential learning opportunities, and this gift allows us to support students who are engaged in these kinds of real-world experiences,” Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “At the same time, the Foundation is also highlighting the important work that Arkansas social workers perform. Our students are eager to join their efforts to help other young people in Arkansas. We are so very thankful of the support from the Blue & You Foundation.”
The Blue & You Foundation, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, serves the state of Arkansas and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. In its 20 years of operation, the Blue & You Foundation has awarded more than $40 million to more than 2,600 health-improvement programs in Arkansas. To achieve the goal of better health for all Arkansans, the Blue & You Foundation seeks to harness the power of partnership.