New Program Will Leverage WHO Model to Improve Access for People Experiencing Emotional Distress in Daily Living and Develop Skills of Non-Clinical Workforce to Support Them

BOSTON (Feb. 16, 2023) – The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation today announced it has awarded more than $850,000 in grants through a new program, Advancing Community-Driven Mental Health, to improve access to mental health services for adults experiencing mild to moderate distress and practical problems of daily living.

With its new, three-year grant program, the Foundation is taking an innovative approach to challenges in mental health care by leveraging an intervention developed by the World Health Organization. The WHO model, called Problem Management Plus (PM+), helps adults learn how to manage adversity and mental health stressors in their day-to-day lives and provides community-based referrals to those at risk of developing severe mental health challenges. The low-intensity psychological intervention also trains the non-clinical workforce to support people in mild to moderate mental health distress.

“Given the current state of the behavioral health crisis in Massachusetts, we believe it is critical to expand our knowledge of the role that non-clinical individuals can play in meeting the basic mental health needs of communities in a more socially and culturally relevant way,” said Audrey Shelto, President and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “The WHO model is an evidence-based intervention with demonstrated success that we are eager to evaluate further through our new grant program and determine how it may be adopted more widely across the Commonwealth.”

The Advancing Community-Driven Mental Health grant program supports five nonprofit organizations that are focused on housing, senior services, support for people with disabilities, and other non-clinical initiatives that provide direct social or community services to individuals and families. The following organizations have received $100,000 each through the first year of funding:

Boston Senior Home Care, which will work to improve access to community-based mental health services through its supportive housing program in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, including training tenant service coordinators.
Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, which will focus on underserved individuals including low-wage earners, those with limited English language proficiency, people with disabilities, seniors and residents of subsidized housing.
Quincy Asian Resources Inc., which will train its family and community services coordinators to support the mental health challenges of clients who have an immigrant background, typically speak Chinese or Vietnamese and have experienced acculturation stress.
Stavros Center for Independent Living, which will implement the PM+ model to support people living with disabilities in western Massachusetts who have difficulty getting mental health services due to limited access to the internet and transportation.
The Community Builders Inc., which will focus on individuals with low incomes and often in need of mental health care who live in family-designated affordable housing in Boston, Mashpee and Worcester.

In addition, the Foundation is providing a total of $355,779 in grant funding to its two technical assistance partners, The Family Van and Partners In Health, which are supporting the development and implementation of the grant program. They are community-centered organizations with knowledge and experience with the PM+ model both locally and internationally.

“There is a need to increase the linguistic, racial and cultural diversity of the behavioral health workforce and to deliver mental health interventions in settings where people are already receiving services and support,” said Jacquie Anderson, the Foundation’s Senior Director of Grantmaking. “With specialized training, non-clinical staff members at the community-based organizations supported by our grant program can play an important role in meeting the basic mental health needs of individuals.”

About the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation

The mission of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation is to ensure equitable access to health care for all those in the Commonwealth who are economically, racially, culturally or socially marginalized. The Foundation was founded in 2001 with an initial endowment from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. It operates separately from the company and is governed by its own Board of Directors.

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