This Funder Is Taking on the Opioid Epidemic. Where Are Its Latest Grants Going?

 Photo:  Marc Bruxelle/philadelphia

Photo:  Marc Bruxelle/philadelphia

Philanthropy’s response to the opioid crisis  has been disappointing, and we keep asking why more funders aren’t shifting their focus to take on an epidemic that claimed over 50,000 lives in 2016.

One reason funders are holding back is that this is a tough problem to address. But a couple months ago, we looked at a foundation's unique approach to the opioid epidemic and how its work could have national implications. The Independence Blue Cross Foundation has made big strides on the regional level with new programs to increase awareness and access to effective community-based opioid treatment and prevention.

Here, we revisit this funder’s efforts and see where the latest batch of opioid-related grants are going.

When we last heard from the foundation’s president, Lorina Marshall-Blake, we got a sense that public awareness campaigns, public education and collaborative partnerships were top priorities for 2018. The foundation didn’t waste any time after the holidays and made an announcement about $200,000 in new opioid epidemic grants early last month. 

Since this funder has expressed interest in serving as a guide for national best practices, we were curious to learn more about the five organizations that secured the IBC Foundation’s latest support. The first new grant went to Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region to fund a substance abuse prevention education program for mentors and staff. Another grant went to David’s New Day fund backing safe housing for people who are transitioning out of treatment but are still recovering from opioid addiction.

Pathways to Housing PA received a new IBC Foundation grant for its community service work for people with substance use disorders, and the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia received funding for a new prevention and treatment project targeting North Philadelphia. Finally, the funder gave a grant to the Moyer Foundation for another North Philadelphia-based effort to replicate a prevention model to help youth who have addiction issues in their families.

There are a couple of themes that stand out about the IBC Foundation’s latest round of opioid grants. While this is a regional funder, North Philadelphia is definitely a prime target of prevention and treatment grantmaking. There’s also a big push for direct services and on-the-ground help right now in the most practical ways possible.

This makes sense, because there have been more than 1,600 overdose deaths per year in southeastern Pennsylvania, lately. Meanwhile, the city of Philadelphia has seen a 43 percent increase in drug-related overdose deaths since 2009. 

Since launching its opioid epidemic initiative, STOP, in August 2016, the foundation has provided more than $600,000 in funding to a variety of related causes. Another big cause for this funder right now is nursing education in Philadelphia. Last fall, the funder teamed up with the Eagles Charitable Foundation to support vision screening professional development for more than 250 Philadelphia school nurses to ensure they are properly trained and certified to give vision exams. Other news updates from this funder can be viewed here.

Related: A Microcosm of the Nation’s Opioid Epidemic—And How Philanthropy Can Help