Jewish Healthcare Foundation Approves $115K to Support Teen Mental Health and Reduce Maternal Mortality

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation on August 26 approved three grants to extend its efforts in support of adolescent behavioral health and maternal health. The grants support initiatives to engage teens in mental health and mental wellness in Squirrel Hill; pilot a school-based behavioral health program in the South Hills; and improve the reach and effectiveness of the state's WIC Program.

Adolescent behavioral health became an area of focus for JHF in 2016 in response to increasing reports that teens in crisis – and their parents – were unable to find timely treatment. The initiative expanded in December 2018 when JHF approved a grant, following the shooting in the Tree of Life synagogue, to improve adolescent behavioral health services in the 15217 neighborhood.

Strengthening Adolescent Behavioral Health in Squirrel Hill

JHF approved a two-year, $70,000 grant to engage local teens around their mental health and mental wellness. Fewer than 40 percent of adolescent Pennsylvanians with depression have received treatment in the past 12 months, and access to mental health services are even harder for teens to find than they are for adults. The grant will help fund a teen engagement coordinator at Squirrel Hill's Jewish Community Center to engage and support teens for 24 hours per week.

This complements JHF's ongoing 15217 initiative, a community-wide initiative for teen mental health based in Squirrel Hill. The teen engagement coordinator will work closely with the 15217 program coordinator to foster strong mental health and wellness practices for Pittsburgh's teens. The coordinator will also build relationships with the other youth-facing groups to share resources and training.

Piloting a School-based Behavioral Health Program in the South Hills

JHF approved a one-year, $20,000 grant to help create a pilot school-based mental health

initiative at Baldwin-Whitehall High School. Implemented in partnership with Allegheny Health Network and Jefferson Regional Foundation, The CHILL Project is a year-long comprehensive curriculum designed to transform school culture through skill learning, implementation, and internalization for all individuals in the school community network.

The CHILL Project will provide a mindfulness room for students, faculty, and parents to actively engage in mindfulness-based learning opportunities and practice these skills. The CHILL Mindfulness Room will be equipped to host a wide range of activities that enhance the mindfulness learning experience and offer an area for "prevention & skill development" versus "discipline & recovery."

The pilot project also will develop a supportive school community that promotes mental health and provide resources and training to teachers. The CHILL Project anticipates serving approximately 2,100 students, 100+ educators, and 2,000+ caregivers in the Baldwin-Whitehall and West Jefferson School Districts.

"JHF's youth advocacy efforts have benefitted from the participation of teen leaders from Baldwin High School who engaged in the Youth Advocacy Summit and the Harrisburg-based advocacy efforts – with the full support of their school's leadership," said JHF Program Manager Deborah Murdoch, MPH. "This pilot will offer lessons for other districts as well as state and national policy recommendations, and it demonstrates the commitment of JHF youth advocates to create safe, supportive school communities equipped to meet the mental health needs of their students."

Reinvigorating Pennsylvania's WIC Program: A Statewide Best Practices Summit

JHF approved a one-year, $25,000 grant to help Pennsylvania strengthen its WIC Program through a statewide best practices summit. The federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as the WIC Program, has been a cornerstone in efforts to support the health of mothers and babies – physically, socially and mentally – for more than 40 years. But enrollment by Pennsylvanians in WIC has declined, which means the state could lose significant federal funding.

States such as Vermont, Maryland and California, however, have models that Pennsylvania could draw upon to improve enrollment here. Building on its work to reinvigorate the WIC Program, JHF – in partnership with other funders from the Pennsylvania Health Funders Collaborative and the state Department of Health – will organize a statewide gathering in Harrisburg this fall. The grant will partially fund the summit's costs, and other PFHC members are invited to lend their support. The summit will bring together statewide WIC leaders and stakeholders to learn from innovative best-practice models across the country and spark action towards regional implementation.

JHF also renewed the following grants:

A one-year, $68,000 grant to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a non-profit comprised of regional leaders committed to improving the quality of life in southwestern Pennsylvania, to align the regional healthcare workforce's size and skills with expected demand, and develop community-wide strategies to address the rising cost of care.

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