Jewish Healthcare Foundation Awards $398,000 in Teen Mental Health Grants to Local Organizations

PITTSBURGH, PA (September 29, 2020) – The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) awarded $398,000 in grants to 14 organizations to support teen mental health programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizations will also form a new teen mental health agency network, convened by JHF, to share information and expertise and forge new collaborations from a grassroots perspective.

Many teens and families in the community have had their schooling curtailed as a result of the pandemic. Their athletic, social, extracurricular and recreational activities have been cancelled, which could continue for 12 months or more. In addition to the stressors of these changes, many teens and families are directly affected by COVID-19 or may have family members who are essential workers. These grants will support programs that serve teens, even virtually, and provide emotional support, interactive experiences, and connection during this difficult and uncertain time.

Changes to online schooling models also present barriers to receiving mental health services. An April 2020 editorial published in JAMA Pediatrics reported that among all students who received any mental-health services from 2012 to 2015, 57% got a portion of it at school while 35% received all of it there. Furthermore, adolescents in racial and ethnic minority groups, with lower family income, or with public health insurance who typically access services at school experienced disproportionately higher interruptions in accessing mental health services.

The funded programs will help further connect the organizations with teens amidst changing circumstances of COVID-19 and engage with youth who may feel isolated. Teens will be encouraged to be involved with program design, implementation, and youth voice activities. Programs will promote mental health and wellness awareness, skills development, and connections with behavioral health services when necessary.

Grantee Steel Smiling will provide space for Black, high school-aged young people to process and positively cope with both the disruptions in their lives caused by COVID-19 and continued incidents of police brutality and anti-Black racism against Black people. Their program will also educate teens about the triggers and symptoms of mental illnesses and engaging in emotional regulation and stress management skills development.

Julius Boatwright, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Steel Smiling, said, "Steel Smiling is truly grateful to be receiving this financial support. It's going to help us grow and continue to deepen our impact in the Black community. We look forward to serving alongside youth in Allegheny County as they strengthen their mental health and wellness."

Grantee The Friendship Circle's program, called FC Crew, will establish peer-support groups led by teen leadership board members, to support teens of all abilities. Friendship Circle will foster teen leadership through behavioral health training, actively engage youth in planning, and empower youth to support their peers.

Rabbi Mordy Rudolph, Executive Director of grantee The Friendship Circle, said, "This grant will allow for FC Crews to truly get off the ground in the most efficient and professional way and allow for The Friendship Circle in general to properly address the mental and behavioral health needs of our teen members. This has been a concern of ours for some time now and we are excited to make real steps towards addressing this growing issue."

These new JHF grants extend the Foundation's efforts around community-based teen mental health programming from an initial $80,000 grant awarded to Jewish Family and Community Services in March 2020. Those funds were initially set to develop a teen mental health and wellness space called UpStreet, but now have also helped to expand virtual programming and text-based support designed in collaboration with a diverse youth advisory committee.

New grants are awarded to Allegheny Health Network for The CHILL Project, Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western PA, Center of Life for The KRUNK Movement, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Gwen's Girls, Homewood Children's Village, The Neighborhood Academy, Steel Smiling, A+ Schools, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, The Friendship Circle, and Repair the World Pittsburgh. All grant recipients will be invited to participate in a new teen mental health agency alliance in order to share program ideas and learning, technical expertise, challenges and opportunities, and forge new collaborations.

About the Jewish Healthcare Foundation

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and its three operating arms — the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI), Health Careers Futures (HCF), and the Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal) — offer a unique brand of activist philanthropy to advance healthcare innovation, advocacy, collaboration, and education in the interest of better population health. For more information, visit

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For more information, please contact Scotland Huber at 215-896-9294 or email


If you need mental health assistance, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.  

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