Look What This Funder is Doing on Teen Mental Health

With characteristic Yankee pluck and vigor, and nearly $100 million in assets, the MetroWest Health Foundation is among the largest health foundations in Massachusetts. We’re betting they aren’t on your radar, but they should be. They have a staunch commitment to community health, but they won’t take over when a hospital can’t, or won’t, run a particular program. They tell you that right on their About Us page. We like that.

We also like that they’re proactive, and principled, and that they just made $1.28 million in mental health grants, going primarily to serve the mental health needs of adolescents.

For the uninitiated, MetroWest is a cluster of 25 communities just outside the beltway and southwest of Boston. The MetroWest Health Foundation (MWHF) has three dedicated grantmaking programs—access to care, adolescent health, and healthy aging—as well as a Health Leadership Program and Evaluation Institute, both of which aim to provide nonprofit organizations with the skills they need to attract and retain good leadership, and to self-assess and conduct performance reviews.

This latest round of mental health grants came out of MWHF’s Adolescent Health program, and, taking an in-depth look, it’s a really interesting mix of gifts to groups around the MetroWest area.

Four area schools are receiving $831,000 over three years to implement a version of the Brookline Resilient Youth Team—a successful school healthcare program that facilitates communication between youth, parents, teachers, and mental health clinicians. Three additional schools are getting $182,000 for one year to strengthen their mental health interventions.

But a look at the community organizations receiving grants reveals the real interest: MWHF is all over the map, and they’ve done their homework. There’s jail diversion. There’s substance abuse prevention. There’s $20,000 for a teen pregnancy prevention program tailored to boys. It’s pretty outside-the-box stuff, even for a progressive state.

I guess this kind of giving would be more unusual coming from Florida or Utah, but even so, we feel it’s worth keeping up with the MetroWest Health Foundation, especially if you travel in mental health grantmaking circles. They may turn out to be a real trendsetter for shaping state funding of mental health initiatives for adolescents.