Blue Shield of California is excited to support Roadtrip Nation’s “Caring Forward,” a new documentary about the innovative, inclusive, and accessible future of health care in the Golden State. 

The film follows three young Californians — Alma, Ryan, and Samuel — as they travel throughout their home state to see how they might widen the lens of what health care and public health can be. 

Sponsored by Blue Shield of California and the Blue Shield of California Foundation, and presented by KQED, “Caring Forward” is airing nationally on public television stations and is available to watch online

Youth Mental Health

Increasing Access to Mental Health Resources

“The pandemic not only shed light on, but exacerbated, a critical epidemic – the alarming decline of mental health of young people, especially those in Black and brown communities,” said DeNora Getachew, CEO of DoSomething.org. 

In response, Blue Shield of California is deepening its commitment to our BlueSky youth mental health program and investing more than $1,000,000 to enhance mental health supports with a focus on reducing health disparities.  Funding will support Mental Health California’s Brother Be Well programs for boys and men of color, age 13+ aimed at reducing disparities in access to mental health services, removing stigma, and improving the mental health and well-being of all program participants. 

Blue Shield will also support DoSomething.org, the largest organization for young people and social change; Directing Changean organization that engages young people throughout California to learn about suicide prevention and mental health; and Youth Power Fund, a Bay Area-based funder collaborative that values the role of youth organizing for advancing justice and equity.

Anxious Youth Call on Leaders to Do More to Save Our Planet

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According to Blue Shield of California’s second annual NextGen Climate Survey, a significant majority of Gen Z youth have experienced a mental health-related issue, such as anxiety, stress, and/or feelings of being overwhelmed as a result of reading, seeing, or hearing news about climate change. For tips on how to cope with climate change-related stress, click here

“The studies are pretty conclusive in my mind – the planet is in serious trouble,” said Joel Castro, 17, senior at Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego and president of his school’s Cesar Chavez Service Club. The study found that young people have personally taken action to respond to climate change by relying less on plastic products, reducing use of electricity, and working to conserve water and are calling on leaders to do more. 

Community Support Spotlight

Expanding Cardiac Care

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it also is responsible for 20% of deaths among people of Hispanic descent. 

Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan announced a $1 million community investment to help build a new state-of-the-art cardiac care clinic in El Cajon, where nearly 30% of the population is of Hispanic descent and more than 14% of residents live below the poverty line. 

“With this support, Family Health Centers of San Diego is poised to address a critical need within the City of El Cajon and surrounding East County communities for high-quality, culturally competent urgent care and cardiology services for low-income and medically underserved communities who are at disproportionate risk for heart disease,” said Fran Butler-Cohen, CEO of Family Health Centers of San Diego. “The new El Cajon Urgent Care Clinic will not only increase community access to urgent medical and cardiac care services, but will also preserve vital hospital resources by reducing inappropriate emergency department use.”

Kindness Promotes Good Health

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“The best way to live your life is to be kind and nice to people,” said Isabella, age 9. “Everybody has good days and bad days, but kind people are the best kind of people, and that’s how I want to be.”

One thousand children between 5 and 18 years old participated in Kindness Rocks, a Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan-sponsored project in San Diego County. Collaborating with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater San Diego, Blue Shield Promise implemented the projectwhich focused on building mental health resilience and practicing kindness, in more than 19 clubs in March through two hands-on activities. The first was designing and painting two rocks based on a kindness curriculum that focused on the themes of Inspire, Empower, Implement, and Reflect. Children crafted one rock for themselves and one rock to give to someone else or to place in a rock garden at their club site. For their second activity, children played a month-long Bingo game that required 30 days of engagement and taught good health habits and mental health resilience skills.

“This was a great experience for the kids,” said Lupe Tran, Boys and Girls Club branch manager, Ron Roberts branch. “They sat as a group and talked about what it means to be kind. Once they finished painting their rocks, they shared their inspirational words and decided as a group to place their rocks in the garden. My favorite inspirational message was, ‘Be you. The world will adjust.’” 

Homelessness

Continued Support to Shelter California's Homeless Population

Blue Shield of California’s $20 million contribution to Homekey helped fund the Sun Lodge in Fresno, a former Days Inn which has sheltered more than 225 people over the past 14 months.  It’s one of more than 20 sites funded by Blue Shield’s investment in Homekey.

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Yenny Aguilar, program director (left), and Marie Gonzalez, client service provider, enjoy snuggles with a puppy that belongs to a resident

“What keeps us all going are the positive outcomes, a person’s move from here to a permanent home,” said Jody Ketcheside, deputy chief operating officer for Turning Point of Central California which provides supportive services to chronically homeless people at Sun Lodge. 

“There’s a direct correlation between homelessness and health outcomes,” said Antoinette Mayer, Blue Shield’s senior director of Corporate Citizenship. “Poor housing conditions can contribute to health inequities and can negatively impact a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.”

Please read about the Sun Lodge in Fresno here. Previous Homekey stories include a feature on LifeMoves in Mountain View, Lotus Living in the Imperial Valley, and the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians’ site

Employee Volunteerism and Giving

Blue Shield of California Employees Show Up

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So far in 2022, our Blue Shield employees have logged almost 10,000 volunteer hours supporting programs that address youth homelessness, climate change, and mental health. In March, more than 100 of our employees gave up their beds for one night in support of Covenant House California, a nonprofit organization that provides 24/7 services to youth experiencing homelessness.

Employees “slept out” from their living rooms, backyards, kitchen floors, and garage, while gathering virtually for a night of conversation, contemplation, education, and story sharing. Together, they helped spread awareness about the youth homelessness crisis and sent a powerful message of solidarity.

Medalla Bautista, a Blue Shield employee who recently joined as associate board member at The Covenant House said, “I was so inspired by the personal stories shared by young people about how Covenant House helped them during their time of need that I decided to join the Associate Board so I can continue to stay involved. I’m sleeping out again this year because I believe everyone deserves a safe place to sleep.” 

 

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Investing in Health Equity

What is “power-building,” and why has Blue Shield of California Foundation invested $5 million in it over the last two years? It is one path toward health equity for communities of color. As Chief Program Director Carolyn Wang Kong explains, “The opportunity to heal, prevent, and thrive, once harm or poor health is experienced, is not evenly distributed in our state.” So, the Foundation has partnered with three distinct funds — California Black Freedom Fund, Latino Power Fund, and Activate California — which harness cultural strengths in the service of achieving health equity in California.

Click here to subscribe to “Intersections," the Foundation’s monthly newsletter. 

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.