Interact for Health awards $3.7M in grants to address mental health, improve life expectancy

Interact for Health awarded $3.7 million in new grants to support local nonprofits working to reduce health-related inequalities and improve outcomes across Greater Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati-based philanthropic fundraising organization used priorities from its recently adopted five-year strategic plan to determine how to distribute the funds.

Those priorities reflect current community needs, according to Kate Schroder, Interact for Health’s president and CEO. They placed a special emphasis on mental health, Schroder said, to address an ongoing mental health crisis, especially among the region’s young people.

She believes these new dollars will help organizations act with “urgency, creativity and compassion.”

“At the same time, we are prioritizing efforts to tackle long-standing challenges in policies, systems and neighborhood conditions that lead to gaps in lifespan of up to 26 years between ZIP codes,” she added.

Interact for Health relied on a group of 43 community members to review and recommend projects for funding. Schroder believes the approach led to a number of smaller organizations, focused on specific communities, getting selected.

Grants were broken down into three category groups: mental health equity, amplifying youth voice and advancing health justice.

More than half of the grant funding, roughly $2 million, went to organizations supporting community efforts to build community power and advocate for policy changes.

Some of the agencies to receive funding include Beech Acres Parenting Center, Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, Lighthouse Youth Services, Center for Closing the Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati, Center for Healing the Hurt, WordPlay Cincinnati, YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Inc. and Talawanda School District. 

Awards ranged from $35,000 to $200,000.

The full list – and grant awards – are below.

“At Interact for Health, we believe that those closest to the problem are closest to the solutions,” Schroder added. “By shifting the power dynamics and ensuring that those most impacted are helping to develop and lead solutions, our vision of a healthier, more equitable community can become a reality.”

The Center for Great Neighborhoods was one of this round’s grantees. The organization works with residents to identify personal skills and talents to help them improve their community.

The center’s Eastern Neighborhoods of Covington Youth Initiative received $115,000 to create opportunities for young people to improve their physical, social, mental and economic health in Northern Kentucky.

“This funding is especially important because it centers the residents as the planners and leaders of this project and allows us to truly engage the community to tackle the issues they face together,” said Shannon Ratterman, the organization’s executive director.

Activities Beyond the Classroom plans to use its $86,000 grant to create a High School Youth Board focused on strengthening mental health services for children, teens and young people. ABC is working with other organizations on well. Collaborators are Adventure Crew, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Cradle to Career, YMCA of Greater Cincinnati and Youth at the Center.

“Grants can limit organizations to quantifiable outcomes, which makes it hard to have community-informed, community-led programming, said Carmen Lawrence-Billé, ABC’s director of advancement. But she feels Interact for Health “took the blinders off.”

“They gave us the ultimate gift, to be able to take our program to the community and let them use it to define success for themselves. Better yet, they’ve given us a platform to be wonderfully collaborative,” Lawrence-Billé said.

A key focus area in the grant program was working to address longstanding systemic challenges that can drastically affect a person’s quality of life and life expectancy based on their ZIP code. Two people can have a 26-year difference in their expected lifespan based on the Greater Cincinnati neighborhood they call home, according to Interact for Health.

While many factors play into that data, Interact for Health’s Ashlee Young described the root cause as “policies and systems that have advantaged some communities over others.

About half of the awarded grant dollars are going to support programs and services working to address mental health and substance abuse disorder. Across the country, about one in five people experience mental health illness and one in seven deal with a substance abuse disorder, per data from Interact for Health. 

Young called all of the grant recipients “uniquely positioned to do that hard work and address the critical problems afflicting our community.” She described them them all as working on the front lines.

“Closing gaps and achieving equity is an important part of the cure for what ails our community,” she said. “But achieving equity is not enough. Ultimately, we must focus our efforts on advancing health justiceon removing the systemic barriers that create these inequities.”

Interact for Health

Mental health equity

Beech Acres Parenting Center – $100,000

  • Beech Acres will provide operating support to increase access to and improve culturally competent care for youth and family mental health services.

Bracken County Health Department – $53,000

  • Bracken County Health Department will implement a comprehensive tiered approach to supporting student mental health.

Center for Healing the Hurt – $100,000

  • The organization’s Helping to Heal Teens Holistically Project is a trauma counseling program for teenagers. It aims to reduce the effects of trauma on teens by providing individual counseling to teens, their families and others.

Central Clinic Behavioral Health – $50,000

  • The Un Puente Necesario (A Needed Bridge) to Help Address Mental Health Inequity program provides school-based, bilingual behavioral health and prevention-based wrap-around services. Its goal is to creating lasting recovery and resiliency for children, families and adults.

Cradle Cincinnati and Queens Village – $100,000

  • Queens Village is primarily designed to address the toxic effects of social isolation and stress for Black women in Hamilton County. Its new Neighborhood Wellness Journey program provides Black women of childbearing age in Cradle Cincinnati-prioritized neighborhoods with wellness tools and healthy coping strategies to manage and reduce their stress.

Covington Partners – $115,000

  • This grant allows the organization to increase the number of Black mentors in its Mentoring for Mental Health program. The organization believes placing Black mentees with mentors who look them and/or have similar life experiences improves success rates.

Forever Kings Inc. – $100,000

  • Clinicians through Kings Made Whole program provide mental health and wellness check-ins, facilitate social-emotional learning opportunities and guide staff on being trauma-informed caregivers.

From Fatherless to Fearless – $80,000

  • From Fatherless to Fearless is expanding the B.R.I.D.G.E. program to three more schools. The program expands wrap-around services to ensure fatherless girls have direct access to counseling when there is a waitlist or lack of options.

GLAD House, Inc. – $50,000

  • GLAD House, Inc. works to improve the lives of children and their families by breaking the cycle of addiction. Its Champs program looks to expand community training focused on trauma-informed care following SAMHSA’s model of trauma-informed approaches.

Lighthouse Youth Services, Inc. – $75,000

  • The funding provides operating support for school-based mental health services.

Love N Action CDC – $75,000

  • The Black Health Minds Mount Healthy program is working on a treatment approach to supports social-emotional awareness in Black communities.

Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio – $58,000

  • The dollars will go toward increasing accessible and culturally competent mental health care for LGBTQ+ Greater Cincinnatians.   

Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission – $58,000

  • The agency aims to normalize and encourage accessing mental health services within populations least likely to do so. The focus is its Improving the Mental Health and Well-Being for Rural Populations program.

Our Tribe – $121,000

  • It looks to provide support and resources for the Black autistic community.

Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses – $125,000

  • The Trauma Recovery Center of Cincinnati removes barriers for trauma victims going through the three stages of recovery: stabilization and safety; counseling and support; and creation and restoration of survivor connections with their communities.

Health justice

A Picture’s Worth, Inc. – $170,000

  • The organization works to create community-centric counter-narratives that offer new ways of thinking about neighbors’ expertise and abilities to address systemic issues. The grant will go toward things such as increasing engagement and leadership development.

Brighton Properties – $100,000

  • Brighton Properties will create strategies to improve policies related to housing in the hopes of improving health equity long-term.

Center for Closing the Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati – $115,000

  • The Dr. Jenny Laster’s Community Engagement Academy will teach the fundamentals of community engagement and advocacy.

Cradle Cincinnati and Queen’s Village – $105,000

  • Queens Village Advisory Board provides Cradle Cincinnati and other stakeholders with direct feedback from the community in order to improve health care systems. The board is made up of multigenerational collection of Black women.

City of Forest Park – $200,000

  • Project R.E.A.C.H will use intergenerational interventions within families and residents to develop and share culturally and linguistically appropriate health information. The project aims to improve trust and access.

Communities United for Action – $100,000

  • The Environmental Justice and Affordable Sewers for All project is working to build community power among homeowners impacted by overland flooding. It’s also developing a comprehensive plan for managing increased stormwater so vulnerable homes won’t suffer further damage.

Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless – $100,000

  • The Affordable Housing Now program aims to eradicate homelessness with respect for the dignity and diversity of everyone affected.

Green Umbrella – $100,000

  • This Climate Justice is Health Justice program looks to support neighborhoods in their efforts to kickstart and accelerate climate planning and food system resilience.

Groundwork Ohio River Valley – $64,000

  • The organization wants to create an air quality monitoring network to better inform residents and to use it as an advocacy tool for policy changes.

One Community One Family – $128,000

  • This grant enables One Community One Family to add a staff member dedicated to reducing stigma around seeking help for mental health in rural communities.

Price Hill Will – $35,000

  • The Price Hill Wellness Community Action Team is using the funds to host free yoga classes in walkable areas of the neighborhood. The goal is to remove prohibitive costs associated with the exercise to get more people to take part.

Safety Council of Southwestern Ohio – $115,000

  • The OHIZ Expansion Project looks to leverage the successes of the Middletown Connect Project to amplify resident voice by expanding to two contiguous census tracts.

School Board School – $69,000

  • School Board School is building a representative and sustainable coalition of partners to create programming and address policies focused on education and success of children.

Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses – $75,000

  • Funding will support its West End MOVES effort. MOVES works with neighborhoods residents to address issues related to things like housing and quality-of-life. It focuses much of its work with residents at risk of displacement and people living in low-income housing complexes.

The Center for Great Neighborhoods – $115,000

  • The Eastern Neighborhoods of Covington Youth Initiative will create opportunities for children and young people to improve their physical, social, mental and economic health.

The Women’s Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation – $88,000

  • Funding supports The Women’s Fund’s Prioritizing Reproductive Healthcare Access to Improve Economic Self-Sufficiency program. It’s a collaboration with research partners to analyze the economic impact of barriers to reproductive health care access and contribute information to understanding the unintended effects of restricting it.

Working In Neighborhoods – $115,000

  • The organization is going to work with residents to help them develop skills, resources and relationships needed to establish the Beekman Corridor Farmer’s Market.

YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Inc. – $192,000

  • The Racial Justice Strategic Development and Resource Plan aims to create a community-driven, sustainable and actionable plan to advance YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism in Adams, Brown, Clermont and Hamilton counties.

Amplifying youth voices

Activities Beyond Classroom – $86,000

  • The funds are to develop the framework for The High School Youth Board. Work will focus on social connectedness, and young people will also have a chance to weigh in on programming meant to improve the lives of their peers.

American Youth Foundation – $50,000 

  • The organization wants to create a Finneytown Youth Advisory Council. It’ll work with the community to come up with approaches for the community to guide children and youth in their development of social-emotional competencies.

Center for Healing the Hurt – $25,000

  • The Center for Healing the Hurt will prepare teens, 17 to 19, to become peer-to-peer youth advocates. They’ll serve as the first line of intervention for younger teens who’ve experienced certain types of traumas.

Cincinnati Black Theatre Company – $58,000

  • The Art of Youth Advocacy: Shoot with a Camera is a youth gun violence prevention and reduction program. It gives young people a creative outlet while they also learn how to manage their feelings positively.

Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services – $56,000

  • NKCES wants to create youth advisory board to provide a platform for young people to advocate for their own mental health through tailored programming. The program will enable Northern Kentucky youth to connect with peers across the region. They’ll also be given a safe space to speak to statewide stakeholders and policymakers.

Northern Kentucky University Research Foundation – $58,000

  • The Amplifying Diverse College Student Voices prioritizes Black, Hispanic and students who identify as LGBTQ+ by specifically addressing their unique mental health challenges. It provides targeted support and works with students to help them take a leadership role in addressing mental health challenges within their respective communities.

Talawanda School District – $28,000

  • The program wants to provide resources and a space to hear from rural students about their feelings and needs for success inside and outside the classroom. Students will take part in the research and sharing the findings.

The DAD Initiative – $57,000

  • The DAD Initiative wants to use its podcasting program to “unleash” youth voices. The goal is to instill in a sense of agency and empowerment in Black youth, especially those impacted by violence and poverty.

WordPlay Cincy – $40,000

  • VOICES is WordPlay’s teen poetry and performance programming. It provides opportunities for them to connect to their broader communities through publications, performances and special events. This grant award deepens the programs capacity.

Youth at the Center – $50,000 

  • Youth at the Center is using the funding to create supportive groups for young people so they can feel seen, heard and valued. It uses the healing circle model.

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