The Episcopal Health Foundation is wrapping up its very first full year of grantmaking and the staff and board have been learning a lot along the way. As the foundation’s VP of grantmaking, Jo Carcedo, told me: "We are always thinking about what more we need to learn, from whom we’d like to learn it, and what we’d like to do in response to new knowledge."
There’s been a big push for mental health support at the foundation, and more generally, throughout this region of Texas. To recap, EHF serves 57 counties in southeastern Texas, including the cities of Houston and Austin. But the funder wants to move beyond the big cities and tap into local needs at the rural level, especially in the areas of mental health and access to care.
In late August, EHF established a new partnership with Seminary of the Southwest in Austin to increase access to mental health care for disadvantaged and underserved people in rural East Texas. This particular agency serves 12 East Texas counties, and it was chosen because of its promising potential to make long-lasting improvements in mental health care accessibility. This $3 million gift will fund three-year internships for professional counselors to serve in the region.
When I asked for a few common characteristics of EHF grantees, this is what Ms. Carcedo said:
Our grantees are thoughtful about their role within the broader system of health care. They do work that will help improve the health of vulnerable populations within our service area. A majority of our grantees have been funded to increase access to care or provide comprehensive primary care services, though we also have a number of other funding categories. Additionally, a majority of grantees continue to apply for project/program support, even though our foundation is one of the few foundations locally that supports operational and capacity building activities. We certainly have work to do to communicate the availability of this type of funding, as the Foundation is equally interested in supporting a strong nonprofit sector.
And fortunately, EHF is looking for new grantees within the 57 counties of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Thus far, the bulk of EHF funding has gone to nonprofits in the urban centers of Houston and Austin. But the foundation is interested in learning more about organizations that work in the other 55 counties here, especially the ones that serve rural areas.
Health equity and the delivery of health care services in rural Texas will be particularly interesting fields for the foundation to get involved in over the next couple years. A new round of grantees will be announced very soon, so keep an eye on the foundation website's news section to learn more.
In conclusion, I’ll leave you with a couple pieces of advice that Ms. Carcedo gives to prospective grantees:
Call before you apply. We are interested in making the application process as transparent as possible, and a conversation with a program officer will give applicants an opportunity to share their plans, get insight on whether or not there is alignment with our strategies, and ask questions about the application process. Also visit our website, www.episcopalhealth.org, to read about our mission and strategies before applying for funding.