Getting to Know the Florida Blue Foundation

 Mental health is one of the priorities of FBF. photo:  Shaynepplstockphoto/shutterstock

Mental health is one of the priorities of FBF. photo:  Shaynepplstockphoto/shutterstock

We’re going to go out on a limb, here, and say that the biggest name in health insurance foundations is Blue Cross and Blue Shield. At IP, we’ve written about and profiled lots of these affiliated funders in different states across the U.S. And it’s been interesting to compare how they differ from place to place in terms of priorities, accessibility and money to spend.  

    One Blue Cross and Blue Shield funder that we haven’t touched on yet is the Florida Blue Foundation (FBF). This funder recently announced that it has $4.3 million available for grants—a move that really solidified its position as a health grantmaker to pay attention to in Florida, especially if you work on its two topics of interest.

    The first topic is mental and behavioral health. While health insurance foundations used to focus exclusively on physical health, this is another sign that times are changing. The strains of untreated or mistreated mental health conditions on the U.S. healthcare system and on society as a whole have reached astronomical levels. And health insurance funders like this one can’t help but notice and respond accordingly.

    It's set aside approximately $2.4 million to fund programs that raise awareness and educate residents about mental and behavioral health in Florida. This money will also fund new materials about navigating the complex healthcare system, and training people on how to use them.

    To a slightly lesser extent, the second big topic that FBF is interested in is health service delivery. This is a more traditional strategy and a practical approach to promoting efficiency in the healthcare system than currently exists, and finding workarounds for people who aren’t being served by it. FBF has set aside about $1.9 million for this purpose through a program called "Advance Innovation and Promote Solutions in the Health Care System." It's backing mobile health units, non-traditional health services, and new models for low-income and under-insured Floridians.

    These new grants range from $80,000 to $100,000 apiece, and last for a two-year or three-year period.

    As with pretty much all Blue Cross and Blue Shield foundations, this one only accepts grant applications from in-state organizations. But this one in Florida also accepts applications from colleges and universities, training centers and public agencies, in addition to nonprofits. It’s also funding collaborative groups more than anything else.

    Another emerging program at FBF is a nursing fellowship program aimed at improving the quality and safety of patient care. Nursing education support is a bigger priority among Blue Cross and Blue Shield funders, lately. This particular funder is open to applications to explore the possibility of creating such a fellowship that would give recent nursing grads real work experience to prepare for this challenging career. FBF has designated about $250,000 for a 1.5-year planning and feasibility grant for this purpose.

    In the past, FBF has also supported an early literacy initiative and partnered with the Miami Heat for an at-risk youth program. It is also a steady supporter of the United Way. Finally, FBF’s Sapphire Awards, created in 2005, recognize the accomplishments of community health leaders in Florida.

    So basically, there is a lot going on with this Jacksonville-based funder, and there’s quite a bit of money available at the local level. You can learn more about the latest grant opportunities on these two program pages: Advance Innovation and Promote Solutions in the Health Care System and Improve Consumer Health. FBF has been on the Florida grantmaking scene since 2001.

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