For the most vulnerable in our communities, including those impacted by mental illness, the pandemic exacerbated existing challenges. As COVID-19 restrictions ease and we move from pandemic to endemic, we are focusing on rebuilding and repairing the communities where we live and work.
Leading with equity, our multi-year BlueSky initiative aims to increase access and awareness to support youth mental health in collaboration with the California Department of Education and other leading nonprofit organizations. Recent highlights include:
Broadcasting for BlueSky: During an episode of the Healthy Dose of Dialogue podcast, Jeremiah Aja, Assistant Director at Wellness Together talked to Jennifer Christian-Herman, Blue Shield of California’s Executive Director of MindBody Medicine, about how the BlueSky non-profit partner is partnering with schools across the country to support students struggling with mental health issues.
Supporting youth film makers: Through its sponsorship of the Directing Change Program and Film Contest and final youth awards ceremony, Blue Shield is exposing young people to mental health and suicide prevention education by providing tools to educators and youth. By making films, young people are engaging with topics and finding unique ways to share messages with other young people. The films will be used in schools and communities to support awareness, education, and advocacy efforts.
Expanding on-campus programs: With funding from BlueSky, NAMI California has expanded its presence in Campus High School clubs throughout the state, increasing membership from 1,051 in 2020 to 1,271 participants in 80 clubs across 16 counties in 2022. The clubs provide peer-led support for students with mental health conditions, students whose family members have a condition, or students who are interested in the field or in advocacy – all focused on the goal of reducing mental health stigma among youth.
Investing in local non-profits: Blue Shield of California provided $150,000 in community investments to five local nonprofits that are addressing homelessness and food insecurity in the San Joaquin Valley. Each of these organizations will receive $25,000 towards their current programming, helping them to continue providing fresh groceries, hands-on job training, and housing services.
Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance
Community Action Partnership of Kern
Community Action Partnership of Madera
Kings Community Action Organization
Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries
Fresno Metro Ministry
Addressing maternal and child health inequity: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Minority Health, maternal and infant mortality is especially inequitable for Black mothers and their babies. In February, Blue Shield of California launched the Maternal Child Health Equity Initiative, which aims to help support mothers, birthing individuals and their babies through the inclusion of community-based organizations, doulas, and technology. “Blue Shield of California is transforming care by addressing the ongoing racial health inequities that directly impact the health of mothers and infants,” said DD Johnice, vice president of the health transformation lab at Blue Shield of California. “We are addressing social barriers and disparities by providing the access and culturally relevant support to put an end to the structurally and systematically disadvantaged cycle of mothers being ignored and disproportionately underserved during one of the most important times of their lives.” Read more about this important initiative.
Fighting homelessness through Homekey: Blue Shield of California’s $20 million contribution to Project Homekey continues to change lives. Our support of Homekey helped the Band of Pomo Indians to provide community members, such as Natalie and her family, with a roof over their heads, a place to settle in, and the ability to focus on their future. Once housed, Natalie and other residents get help with education, job searches, addiction treatment, and transportation to medical appointments.
Engaging our employee donors and volunteers: We are so proud of our generous employees! In 2021 alone, 86 percent of Blue Shield of California employees volunteered their time (40,784 hours) and/or helped fund worthy causes ($1.58 Million, including company match).
Sixty-seven Blue Shield of California employees have mentored 87 Oakland Promise scholars since 2017. Read how Sonja Steck, Health Innovation Product Strategy Manager, and her mentee, Melissa Del Carmen Jimenez, supported and learned from each other through the pandemic and overcame other challenges.
Contributing to worthy causes: On March 7, 2022, Blue Shield of California made a $37 million contribution to Blue Shield of California Foundation to support its efforts to end domestic violence and help California become the healthiest state. The nonprofit health plan has contributed more than $192 million to its Foundation during the past five years.
Blue Shield of California Foundation made a series of grants in the San Diego area to teach immigrants from multiple countries, including Iraq and Somalia, child-care skills and small business development so that they can meet a need for culturally competent child care and grow as entrepreneurs. These were just some of the 96 grants, worth more than $30 million in all, that the Foundation made in 2021.
Blue Shield of California Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that is funded entirely by contributions from Blue Shield of California. The Foundation supports lasting and equitable solutions to make California the healthiest state and end domestic violence. When we work together to remove the barriers to health and well-being, especially for Californians most affected, we can create a more just and equitable future. For more information, visit: www.blueshieldcafoundation.org.