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Miami, Fla. - January 21, 2022

The Florida Blue Foundation, the philanthropic foundation for the state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, today announced a $3.8 million investment to enhance mental health for Florida’s children, families, and seniors.

Twelve nonprofit organizations across the state share in the investment which will support community-based programs that directly improve access to and quality of mental well-being services, particularly for the underserved and uninsured, including racial and ethnic minorities, and low-income populations.

“There is no health without mental health. Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical health, yet many Floridians suffering from loneliness, stress, anxiety or addiction do not get the help they need due to the stigma of mental illness or lack of access to support,” said Pat Geraghty, president and CEO of Florida Blue. “We are investing $3.8 million in organizations embedded in communities in need and offering innovative solutions that can create a lasting and meaningful impact in those communities.”

The investment announcement occurred during a community conversation about children’s mental health hosted by Florida Blue in the Wynwood community of Miami. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 180,000 Florida children age 12-17 suffer from depression, and 64.2% did not receive any mental health care in the last year.

Three South Florida organizations serving young people that will benefit from more than $1 million in grants were on hand for the event to share the challenges they see in the South Florida community and some of the unique solutions they are implementing to address them.

  • Guitars Over Guns: M-Power Program (Miami-Dade) – Guitars Over Guns is building upon its current work providing students from vulnerable communities a powerful combination of music education and mentorship from professional musicians to help them overcome hardship, find their voices and reach their potential as tomorrow’s leaders. M-Power integrates mentoring, artistic instruction, performance, and trauma-informed care by embedding social-emotional and therapeutic support programs into Guitar Over Guns current student initiatives. Recipient of a $400,000 grant over 4 years.
  • Nova Southeastern University: STEPS (School Toolkit for K-12 Educators to Prevent Suicide) – Developed by a psychology professor at NSU, the STEPS program equips school administrators, teachers, school mental health professionals and parents with tools to recognize student suicidal behavior and intervene effectively. Recipient of a $300,000 grant over 3 years.
  • Kristi House: Project HEADSTRONG (Miami-Dade) – Spurred by the pandemic, racial injustice and calls for help from the community, Kristi House will expand its training and education beyond its current child abuse and child sex trafficking work through Project HEADSTRONG. The new program offers mental health support to more than 17,000 children and family members through community-based training, mental health support and an annual symposium for child-serving providers and caregivers. Recipient of a $350,000 grant over 4 years.

Additional organizations from across the state will also receive grants from the Florida Blue Foundation ranging from $250,000 to $400,000 to address mental well-being needs in the communities they serve, including programs that:

  • Provide mental health counseling and education in schools for under/uninsured students;
  • Provide a safe environment for mental and emotional healing for members of the LGBTQ+ community, transgender individuals, victims of hate crimes and LGBTQ+ seniors; 
  • Train spiritual leaders to offer tele-mental health and well-being support to Black men and youth in low-income areas; and
  • Enhance engagement with seniors who live alone and became even more isolated and lonely during COVID-19.

The $3.8 million investment is part of an ongoing commitment by the Florida Blue Foundation to address mental well-being across the state. Over the past five years, the Foundation has invested more than $12.7 million in nonprofit organizations’ addressing mental health needs in Florida.