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 in Athens. The funds represent one of largest financial commitments southeast Ohio has ever received to address mental health and homelessness, interrelated societal issues that are nearly impossible to address separately.
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.
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.
- The Adam-Amanda MHRC will purchase an array of equipment to support physical health for patients as they received 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.
- To host the Southeast Ohio Mental Health & Housing Instability Forum. As part of Anthem’s work with NAMI, the two organizations are planning the Southeast Ohio Mental Health & Housing Stability Conference at Ohio University on Oct. 7. 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.
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.