Investment and training - educators learn to spot trauma and stress in youth

Published March 2, 2023

Strategic investments link community-based treatment and prevention programs to make a positive impact on mental health.

Studies show the link between traumatic events during childhood can have lasting impact on mental and physical health through adulthood without intervention and treatment. The Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas is working to improve the health of children with an investment strategy that brings together community-based initiatives with overlapping commitments to raise awareness and to prevent and intervene on behalf of patients in crisis. The results are making a positive impact on mental health throughout the state. The Blue & You Foundation is a charitable foundation established and funded by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield to promote better health in Arkansas.

“No single part of the health care system is large enough to drive the kind of change that’s needed,” said Curtis Barnett, president and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “It makes sense to partner with high-quality, highly committed mission-based organizations and do what you can to scale their impact to even greater levels,” he said.

In 2021, the Blue & You Foundation, led by Executive Director Rebecca Pittillo, awarded $5 million in grants to several community-based initiatives that impact behavioral health of young children, teenagers and adults. The Foundation plans to commit an additional $5 million in 2023 to behavioral health programs helping children and adolescents throughout the state of Arkansas.

An example of partnership is taking place between two programs at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). UAMS researchers are training schoolteachers and administrators to identify trauma in children while simultaneously utilizing a UAMS service that provides trauma-informed care resources for teachers and parents. It’s just one example of two innovative programs working together to support mental health in the community. And it was an important factor in the Blue & You Foundation’s investment strategy to support both programs to scale their positive impact statewide.

  • Trauma Resource Initiative for Schools – (TRIS), a program in cooperation with the Arkansas Department of Education and multiple statewide partners designed to build trauma-informed schools in which all staff, students, families and community members recognize and respond to traumatic stress. Blue & You Foundation investment - $1.2 million over three years.
  • AR Connect Now – A 24-hour service providing resources and treatment options for all Arkansans in need of immediate behavioral health care in their local area. AR-Connect Now is overseen by the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute. Blue & You Foundation investment - $750,000 over two years.

The Blue & You Foundation investment has already made a positive impact on both programs:

  • As of January 2023, the teacher training (TRIS) program has reached more than 5,300 education professionals statewide and provided crisis consultation to 68 schools, according to the program’s director Dr. Nikki Edge.

AR-Connect Now has reached over 119,600 users accessing the website since June 2022 and reported 652 calls from the website to ARConnect Now. The website increased calls to ARConnect Now by 46% in 2022, said Teresa Hudson, PharmD, PhD, assistant dean for Health Services Research and professor of Psychiatry at the Psychiatric Research Institute in the UAMS College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry

You can read about all the initiatives supported by the Blue & You Foundation here.

Arkansas Blue Cross established the Blue & You Foundation in 2001. Since then, it has awarded more than $52 million to nonprofits, schools and governmental agencies for more than 3,000 health-improvement programs in all 75 counties.

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.