Behavioral Health Grants Drive Impact in First Year

Youth deserve to feel safe and supported in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. To be responsive to ongoing U.S. Surgeon General public health advisories on widespread mental health challenges affecting young people, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) has continued to take an intentional and multi-faceted approach. CareFirst seeks to advance community initiatives, educational programming and advocacy for increased behavioral health resources for youth. An extension of these efforts was a program launched in 2022 that remains active today as CareFirst partners with organizations to improve behavioral health outcomes in the mid-Atlantic region by addressing disparities for at-risk youth and expanding the behavioral health workforce.

The funding initiative provides nearly $8 million in behavioral health grants and investments over three years to 19 community-based organizations in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia. Programs focused on eliminating barriers to accessible services for youth and expanding the number of available providers specializing in behavioral healthcare were prioritized through the application review process. Currently in year two of the initiative, funding recipients are on track to exceed anticipated results, impacting more than 25,000 people collectively.

The programs funded all address two key focus areas:

  • Addressing behavioral health disparities for at-risk youth, including rural, low-income, youth of color and LGBTQ youth—especially programs that address the root causes leading to higher prevalence of mental health and substance use disorders among this population, as well as those that improve screening and referral pathways for behavioral health services and/or peer-to-peer and related support services interventions.
  • Expanding the behavioral health workforce—especially initiatives that promote recruitment and retention of providers from underrepresented backgrounds or incentivize health professionals to practice in geographical areas with limited access to mental health care.

In the first year of the funding initiative, our partner organizations have exceeded expectations. In decreasing disparities and increasing access, 9,260 youth were served through programs supported by CareFirst funding, which have:

  • Screened 3,307 youth for unmet behavioral health needs (412% above target)
  • Provided 474 unduplicated youth with clinical services (120% above target)
  • Recorded 417 youth with improved behavioral health
  • Provided 6,097 unduplicated youth with peer support services
  • Provided 321 unduplicated parents with services (255% above target)
  • Provided 178 youth with school-based services
  • Trained 23 teachers in behavioral health (121% above target)
  • Received a 0.73 referral completion rate (139% above target)

In increasing the behavioral health workforce and providing workforce development, 2,300 people were served by newly hired or newly trained peer providers through programs supported by CareFirst funding, which have:

  • Served 1,085 people by newly trained peer providers (167% above target)
  • Served 731 people by newly hired providers (157% above target)
  • Trained 676 providers (112% above target)
  • Trained 108 peer providers (111% above target)
  • Hired 53 providers (118% above target)
  • Licensed or re-licensed 18 providers (164% above target)

CareFirst's funding initiative addresses behavioral healthcare as a foundational element of overall health for our members and communities. Now in its second year, the initiative is expected to positively impact more than 25,000 people by the end of its three-year funding lifecycle. Through capacity building, the impact of this initiative will be felt long after the initial investment of resources and support.

Snapshot of Success

One organization supports a peer recovery program that places trained peer recovery coaches (who are themselves recovered from substance use disorders) with people getting on a path to sobriety. The CareFirst grant allows the hospital to cover costs for the salary and training of the coaches who take shifts in the Emergency Department to help patients. Currently, two coaches cover 16 hours a day, five days a week.

The CareFirst grants help one organization with a development program to increase the number of qualified behavioral health professionals in Virginia, addressing the state and nationwide shortage of these clinicians that results in long wait times for treatment. This organization uses funds to provide two individuals with individual and group licensure supervision.

Grant funding enabled the creation of a youth wellness program, which allowed an organization to hire a Behavioral Health Specialist to provide and coordinate services to clients across six residential programs, reducing barriers to mental health services among youth experiencing homelessness.

Grant funding supported a recovery program where interns in programming are set up to help individuals master the core competencies of peer recovery support and trauma-informed care. One intern was thinking about leaving the program, but utilized the training she gained to administer Narcan and saved the life of a patron. Because of this heroic act, she realized how vital her role is in the community and stayed with the program.

Grant Recipient Organizations

  • Arlington Free Clinic (Arlington, VA)
  • Association for the Public Defender of Maryland (Prince George’s County, MD)
  • Center for Urban Families (Baltimore City, MD)
  • Centro Hispano de Frederick Inc. (Frederick County, MD)
  • Chase Brexton Health Services (Baltimore City, MD)
  • Enoch Pratt Library of Baltimore City in partnership with Maryland Peer Advisory Council and Healing City Baltimore (Baltimore City, MD)
  • Identity Inc. (Montgomery County, MD)
  • Ignatius Loyola Academy (Baltimore City, MD)
  • Luminis Health Inc. (Anne Arundel County, MD)
  • Pathway Homes (Fairfax, VA)
  • Pathways to Housing D.C. (Washington D.C.)
  • Pride Center of Maryland (Baltimore City, MD)
  • Sasha Bruce Youthwork (Washington, D.C)
  • Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (Washington, D.C.)
  • University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center (Charles County, MD)
  • West Cecil Health Center, Inc. (Cecil County, MD)
  • Whitman-Walker Health (Washington, D.C)
  • Worcester Youth & Family Counseling Services (Worcester County, MD)
  • Young Women’s Project (Washington, D.C.)

Read about our “State of Behavioral Health in the National Capital Region” event here.
To learn more about our efforts to transform the healthcare experience, please check out our 2023 Mission Report