Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Awards $2.45 Million in Blue Fund Grants

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York Blue Fund recently announced $2.45 million in grants to support 12 major health-based projects across Western New York that will have a positive impact on behavioral health, cardiovascular health, healthcare workforce development and healthy children.

“Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York is dedicated to improving the health, well-being, and quality of life for individuals who reside in the communities we serve,” said Julie R. Snyder, vice president, community affairs, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. “Our Blue Fund grants support organizations who work collaboratively to address barriers to health, ultimately enhancing the overall health of our region.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield launched the Blue Fund in July 2018, to support organizations and initiatives that work collaboratively to address key health areas and demonstrate enhanced measurable outcomes for the community. This cycle of grants, which are generated from the company’s investment reserves, not members’ premiums, brings the health plan’s total investment through Blue Fund to more than $9.3 million.

Additionally, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield invested a total of $604,225 in 64 non-profit organizations in Western New York in the first half of 2021 for partnerships and sponsorships, supporting the health of the region.

Below are the recipients of the 2021 Blue Fund Grants:

Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus — Amount awarded: $240,000. To support Food as Medicine for Clinicians and Community Members Research Study. The project will create a replicable model of clinical-community partnerships that deliver medically tailored meals with hands-on nutrition education and social supports to clinicians and patients in the Medical Campus neighborhood, resulting in significantly improved health indicators, enhanced quality of life, and reduced health care utilization.

• Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County— Amount awarded: $264,000. To support Farmacy Veggie Rx Program and Mobile Market. The program will grow and develop Cornell Cooperative Extension’s current Farmacy Veggie Prescription program, along with the Veggie Van mobile farmers market to increase food access and equity in Niagara County.

The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Foundation — Amount awarded: $175,000. To support Building workforce capacity to promote racial equity in health care at John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital. The program will develop and implement diversity, equity, and inclusion workforce development to provide more equitable care that improves maternity patient outcomes, addresses social determinants of health, and creates a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

Crisis Services— Amount awarded: $290,000. To support Crisis Hotline Text and Chat Expansion.  The program will expand the 24-hour Crisis Hotline Program to include chat and text functionality, which provides a cost-free option for receiving crisis intervention that is accessible and ensures user privacy. This functionality will increase access to direct services for individuals in crisis.

FeedMore WNY— Amount awarded: $200,000. To support Food for Kids Initiative.  The project encompasses four programs that provide emergency assistance and food access services: Baby Need Program, Back Pack Program, School Pantry Program, and the Kids in the Kitchen Program to meet the food needs of children from infancy through young adulthood.

Healthy Community Alliance —  Amount awarded: $240,000. To support Strong Starts Chautauqua.  The program will advance the health and development of Chautauqua children aged birth to age 5—particularly the high percentage who experience early life trauma, poverty and prenatal substance exposure—through an evidence-based screening, assessment, referral, and treatment (SART) model.

Neighborhood Health Center — Amount awarded: $250,000. To support Population Health Care Management at Neighborhood Health Center’s Riverway location.  The project will co-locate the behavioral health department, community health workers, and wellness department in a new location at 1569 Niagara Street in Buffalo to expand the population health care management model and better serve high-risk patients.

Niagara Falls Housing Authority — Amount awarded: $226,000. To support Healthcare Workforce Development Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Training Program. The Niagara Falls Housing Authority will develop and implement a CNA Training class with wraparound social supports that provides opportunities for residents and creates more health care workers in the Buffalo-Niagara region.

Project Stork— Amount awarded: $100,000. To support Happy Moms, Healthy Babies.  The program provides direct support for low-income families with maternal mental health concerns, prenatal and postpartum transportation barriers, and supplemental basic needs that positively impact the wellbeing of infants and toddlers with the household.

Spectrum Health & Human Services — Amount awarded: $165,000. To support Improving Behavioral Health and Social Determinants of Health Through crisis stabilization services.  The project will provide Crisis Stabilization Services to individuals needing behavioral health services including medication assisted treatment, psychiatric services, ancillary withdrawal services, and substance use disorder outpatient services integrated with Recovery Options Made Easy’s respite services.

United Memorial Medical Center  —Amount awarded: $200,000. To support Licensed Practical Nurse Training. The project will provide LPN training to low-income and rural residents of Genesee County. This initiative has the potential to lift families out of poverty and fill nursing workforce gaps at United Memorial Medical Center and across Western New York.

• WNY Women’s Foundation— Amount awarded: $100,000. To support Buffalo Women’s Economic Mobility Hub.  The program moves single mothers and their children out of poverty into high-demand, high-wage family-sustaining healthcare jobs by introducing supports for single moms’ unique needs into healthcare workforce training programs.

To learn more about Blue Fund, visit www.bcbswny.com/bluefund.

Photo: Spectrum Health & Human Services has been awarded $165,000 through the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York Blue Fund. It’s one of 12 organizations that received funds from the insurer.