Danvers, MA – In response to pre- and post-COVID behavioral health challenges, Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) is proud to announce new investments in organizations working together to improve the region’s behavioral health system.
ECCF, in partnership with the Evelyn Lily Lutz Foundation, the Peter and Elizabeth Tower Foundation, North Shore Community Health Network and additional funders, is now accepting applications for ECCF’s Behavioral Health Partnership Grants program.
“The goal of a ‘partnership grant’ is to provide philanthropic support to a group of organizations working together to make lasting changes in a specific system,” said Carol Lavoie Schuster, ECCF’s vice president for grants, nonprofit and donor services. “Often, that means a nonprofit collaborating with a for-profit partner and a municipality.”
ECCF believes that this form of ‘systems philanthropy’ can help transform the way we solve collective challenges like gaps in the behavioral health system.
“Behavioral health challenges were pervasive prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lavoie Schuster. “And, like many other critical social issues, these challenges have been exacerbated in the last 18 months, so this is a priority in our communities right now.”
In Essex County, where pre-COVID rates of opioid overdose and binge drinking were significantly higher than in Middlesex, Suffolk or Worcester counties, we have seen an alarming increase in suicide, substance use admissions and mental health care provider burnout post-pandemic.
“But we’ve also seen more collaboration, attempts to integrate services and an improved awareness of these complex challenges,” said Lavoie Schuster. “These silver linings tell us that the time is right to focus on making changes to our systems.”
Stakeholders in behavioral health overwhelmingly agree. During a series of post-pandemic community conversations – and at the subsequent ECCF Behavioral Health Think Lab in September – hundreds of cross-sector leaders indicated that centralizing resources and forming community partnerships are critical to improving behavioral health.
“The resulting Behavioral Health Partnership Grants program is a critical step towards reimagining our behavioral health systems,” said ECCF President and CEO Beth Francis. “It’s an opportunity to co-invest in ideas that address greater access to services, reduced barriers to care, greater integration of behavioral health services and an expanded work force.”
“Behavioral health is a high priority for us,” said Tracy A. Sawicki, executive director of the Peter and Elizabeth Tower Foundation. “The pandemic has elevated the public’s awareness about this issue and of the challenges in meeting the increased demand. This initiative provides an opportunity to move toward a behavioral health system the community needs and deserves.”
Applications for projects that focus on any aspect of mental wellness – including substance use disorders, behavior, habits and other impacts such as poverty or discrimination – are welcomed. Proposals that address people disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including People of Color, immigrant populations, youth, elderly, those with physical and intellectual disabilities, people experiencing homelessness and others living in poverty, will receive special consideration.
Grants in the amount of $25,000 to $100,000 will be considered and awarded based on need and the size and scope of project outcomes. A full set of guidelines can be found at eccf.org, along with dates for information sessions and application deadlines.
“Given the recent increase in challenges resulting from gaps in our behavior health systems, we anticipate a large number of grant applications in the coming weeks,” said Lavoie Schuster. “ECCF is so grateful to our co-funders and partners for collaborating on this opportunity to help Essex County nonprofits address evolving health needs.”
The mission of Essex County Community Foundation is to inspire philanthropy that strengthens the communities of Essex County. We do this by managing charitable assets, strengthening and supporting nonprofits and engaging in strategic community leadership. Since 1998, ECCF and its family of 260 charitable funds have granted $120 million to nonprofits, schools and students in Essex County and beyond. Our ultimate goal is to have 34 thriving cities and towns in Essex County and to improve the quality of life for the region’s nearly 800,000 residents. Learn more at eccf.org.