LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Suicide, along with symptoms of anxiety and depression, are more prevalent in Arkansas than the national average. A new grant from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Arkansas could help more people get the care they need.
"Mental health seems to have been a low priority in healthcare across the country, and this grant will help drive it to the forefront," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson was among those in attendance Friday as the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas announced $5.29 million in grants will be awarded to behavioral health programs in the state.
Curtis Barnett, President & CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said the money will go to eight different Arkansas programs working to combat the state's growing mental health crisis.
"When you think about the challenges facing healthcare today — access, quality, affordability, the patient experience — behavioral health is at the center of all those issues," Barnett said.
According to Barnett, the grant recipients are all working to increase access and eliminate barriers in all stages of life — from early childhood into adulthood.
The programs selected for the Blue & You Foundation grants are:
- Arkansas Children’s will receive $1.5 million to integrate the nationally recognized HealthySteps program in pediatric primary care facilities in Arkansas.
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will receive $1.95 million to expand The Trauma Resource Initiative for Schools and AR-Connect programs.
- A total of $1.735 million will be provided to three universities to support their Master of Social Work programs to train LCSWs in primary care settings. Each of the following schools will receive an endowment of $500,000 to directly support students in their Master of Social Work programs.
- Arkansas State University
- University of Arkansas – Fayetteville
- University of Arkansas – Little Rock
- The Arkansas Chapter of The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Arkansas) will receive $105,000 to support the growth and maintenance of programs that provide resources to support individuals with mental health conditions and reduce stigma around the use of behavioral health services.
"We recognize that every life deserves hope, and we recognize there's a human story to all of this," Barnett said. "Certainly, the behavioral healthcare system in our state — we have some magnificent providers doing amazing work — but the demand, unfortunately, is outpacing the supply of providers we have today."
Click here to learn more about the grants.