Lighthouse Awarded Interact for Health Community Grant
AUGUST 8, 2023 -Interact for Health today announced a first wave of community grants, totaling over $3.7 million, aimed at improving health outcomes and reducing gaps in the Greater Cincinnati region. Lighthouse Youth & Family Services was awarded $75,000 to support its school-based mental health services.
As part of the organization’s five-year strategic plan launched earlier this year, Interact for Health outlined several priority areas that will guide efforts to tackle urgent health needs and to reduce inequities in the region—which include a strong focus on mental health, building community power, and investments in policy and systems change.
“Our priorities reflect the community’s priorities. The growing mental health crisis—especially among youth—calls us to act with urgency, creativity and compassion. And 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,” said Kate Schroder, Interact for Health President and CEO.
These community grants will help fund organizations and programs within three priority areas. Grant recipients were selected for their unique, powerful approaches in the following:
• Mental Health Equity ($1.3M): Improving culturally competent care and access to mental health services and support among adults and youth within Interact for Health’s priority populations: Black and Hispanic, LGBTQ+, low-income families and rural communities.
• Advancing Health Justice ($2M): Supporting community efforts to advance health justice through community power building, policy and systems change, and narrative change.
• Amplifying Youth Voice (over $500K): Supporting youth-serving organizations to increase youth voice in strengthening mental health services.
Integral to the selection process were the 43 community members Interact for Health engaged to review and recommend grant projects. In explaining how grantees were selected—including many smaller, community-focused organizations—Schroder noted, “At Interact for Health, we believe that those closest to the problem are closest to the solutions. 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 the grantees announced in today’s first wave of new funding. Its Eastern Neighborhoods of Covington Youth Initiative program received a $115,000 Advancing
Health Justice grant to create opportunities for youth to improve their physical, social, mental and economic health. According to Shannon Ratterman, Executive Director, the funding is crucial to creating a safe environment for youth in Covington’s most underserved neighborhoods.
“The Center for Great Neighborhoods enables residents to identify their skills and talents and use these to improve their community. 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,” she said.
Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) was awarded funding from the Amplifying Youth Voice grant. The organization was awarded almost $86,000 to establish a High School Youth Board to strengthen youth mental health services. The new program unites several youth-focused partners—including Adventure Crew, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, Community Action Agency, Cradle to Career, YMCA and Youth at the Center—a game-changing first for ABC.
“Grants can limit organizations to quantifiable outcomes, which makes it hard to have community-informed, community-led programming. But 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,” noted Carmen Lawrence-Billé, ABC’s Director of Advancement.
The Cincinnati region lags behind the rest of the nation in how long and how well its residents live—the average lifespan gap can be up to 26 years between neighborhoods located just a few miles apart. And while many assume that healthcare access, genetics or race cause the vast difference in lifespan, “The root cause is actually the policies and systems that have advantaged some communities over others,” said Ashlee Young, Vice President of Policy and Community Engagement at Interact for Health.
While local policies and systems impact the well-being of our community, the Cincinnati region is not the only one suffering. Across the country, a growing mental health crisis is affecting millions, with one in five people experiencing mental health illness and one in seven dealing with a substance abuse disorder. Mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people—but the burden of mental distress is unequal, with marginalized communities facing greater hurdles in their search for mental healthcare.
According to Young, it is only by removing these barriers and repairing the systems that disadvantage certain populations that we can build a healthy, thriving community for all. Supporting community organizations that deeply understand these challenges is the first step of that journey.
“Closing gaps and achieving equity is an important part of the cure for what ails our community,” said justice—on removing the systemic barriers that create these inequities. Our grant recipients are uniquely positioned to do that hard work and address the critical problems afflicting our community. We are grateful and honored to have them with us on the front lines.”
Lawrence-Billé echoed Young’s sentiments. “This grant is making equity and inclusivity achievable. Interact for Health isn’t defining success for an entire community, and neither are we: the communities themselves are empowered to do that. That is inclusivity. That is justice. I wish more funders would follow Interact for Health’s lead.”
For more information, visit http://interactforhealth.org/2023grantees.