The health of a community can only be as strong as
the well-being of its citizens. Through grants awarded in this area,
the Foundation seeks to address societal issues associated with
health disparities, family planning, teenage parenting,
domestic violence, children's health and well-being, child abuse
and neglect, hunger and homelessness.
The Foundation also supports advocacy programs promoting access to health and mental health services, a stronger child welfare system, and a comprehensive system of universal health care. Furthermore, the
Foundation supports programs that provide opportunities for low-income families
to live in quality housing in good neighborhoods throughout the region.
The needs of Baltimore's homeless citizens--including runaway and homeless youth--are of particular concern.
Areas of interest include:
- access to health insurance and health care
- family planning and reproductive health
- teen pregnancy prevention
- oral health
- hunger and nutrition
- housing and homelessness
- youth sports and recreation
- youth development
- mental health services and supports
- public health
- school-based health services
- community-based health clinics
Learn more about the health and human services initiatives
funded by The Abell Foundation by visiting Publications/Research.
More information is also available in our Highlights below.
Health & Human Services Highlights
Adoptions Together – Family Find/Step Down Project
Each year, several thousand Baltimore City children are placed in out-of-home care, including foster and kinship care homes, group homes and residential treatment centers. While foster care is intended to be a temporary safe haven for children whose parents cannot provide them with adequate care, many of these children spend a large portion of their childhoods in foster care, eventually aging out of the system when they reach adulthood. During 2011, 432 adolescents and young adults aged out of Baltimore City foster care, an average of 36 per month. These young people are reaching adulthood with no permanent families and very little support. Young people who age out of foster care are at high risk for incarceration, homelessness, and joblessness, and are far less likely than their peers to attend college.
In an effort to address these challenges, Adoptions Together partnered with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS) in 2011 to create the Family Find/Step Down (FFSD) Project, supported by a $214,835 grant from The Abell Foundation. Modeled on a successful program that Adoptions Together designed and implemented in Washington D.C., the FFSD project works to find permanent homes for children who have been in Baltimore’s foster care system for many years. Adoptions Together staff work closely with BCDSS staff as part of an “FFSD team,” addressing key steps on the path to permanency.
In fall 2011, the FFSD project began working with an initial group of 31 children who range in age from 10 to 20 years old, and have spent an average of 9.5 years in the foster care system. The project aims to place 135 children in permanent homes over the course of two years, providing them with the stability and support of permanent families as they transition to adulthood.
Baltimore City Health Department – Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program
Despite significant declines in recent years, Baltimore’s teen birth rate remains one of the highest in the nation. In 2009, 1,494 Baltimore City teenagers gave birth, many of them for a second or third time: nearly 11 percent of births to 15- to 17-year-olds were at least their second births, and more than one- quarter of births to 18- to 19-year-olds were second or third births. Extensive research has shown that teenage childbearing can have long-term negative effects on both the adolescent mother and her newborn.
In an effort to address this concern, the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) launched a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) in 2011 with the support of a $47,000 grant from The Abell Foundation, together with funding from the Blaustein and Straus Foundations. The three-year initiative incorporates a number of strategies aimed at reducing teen and unintended pregnancies in Baltimore. The TPPI is overseen by the BCHD Assistant Commissioner for Maternal and Child Health and operates in conjunction with the Health Department’s B’More for Healthy Babies initiative, which is aimed at improving birth outcomes in Baltimore. Now in its third year, the B’More for Healthy Babies initiative has already done significant work to reform and strengthen Baltimore’s home visiting programs, and to promote family planning. The TPPI will benefit from B’More for Healthy Babies experience and contacts within the home visiting and reproductive health fields.
Baltimore Medical System – Asthma Improvement Project
Asthma is the most common chronic disease in childhood and the leading cause of non-injury hospitalization among children from birth to age 15. Children in high-poverty, inner-city neighborhoods are at particularly high risk for asthma, and asthma rates are far higher among African Americans than among whites. In Baltimore City, 20 percent of children suffer from asthma, compared to 9 percent of children nationally. Moreover, an African-American resident of Baltimore is six-and-a-half times more likely to have an asthma-related emergency department visit than a white resident, and an African-American child is three times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than a white child. In addition to hospitalizations, asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism for children.
In an effort to address this serious health concern, Baltimore Medical System (BMS) created a two-year pilot asthma improvement project for the Baltimore City public schools where BMS operates school-based health centers. BMS will create an “asthma team” consisting of a community health worker, an asthma nurse, and a project coordinator, who will oversee screening and follow-up care for children at the schools served by BMS.
The asthma team will administer a screening questionnaire to identify students with asthma, and to document the severity of their symptoms. The team will follow children who have asthma to ensure that they are on appropriate medications and have “asthma action plans” – written plans that spell out the care a child needs, based on his or her symptoms. Those children who are identified as having poorly controlled asthma will receive individualized care coordination to help them and their families keep the asthma under control. The asthma team also will work with the children’s primary health care providers to ensure that they are aware of and supportive of the child’s asthma care.
Among those students diagnosed with asthma, BMS expects to document significant improvements in symptoms, reduced use of asthma rescue medications, and improved school attendance. The team will closely monitor school attendance of children served by this project, with the expectation that attendance will improve once children are enrolled in the project and to keep asthma symptoms under control.
Founded in 1968 by the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore, the Franciscan Center is an emergency outreach center that serves individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The Franciscan Center is located in the Charles Village neighborhood in central Baltimore, but serves individuals throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area. The center currently operates five core programs: emergency services, consisting primarily of eviction prevention and utility assistance grants, as well as small grants for client needs such as prescriptions and transportation; a food pantry that provides a three-day supply of groceries to individuals in need; a lunch program, serving a hot, nutritious meal to more than 300 people per day; a free clothing boutique that offers business clothing for men who are seeking employment; and a technology resource center that provides computer skills training and job search assistance. During fiscal year 2011, the center served more than 83,000 meals, and provided over 3,000 emergency assistance grants to address immediate and pressing client needs, including 307 eviction prevention grants, 370 grants for prescription assistance, and 621 utility assistance grants.
University – Helping Up Mission Oral Health Care Project
Homeless Persons are disproportionately at risk for oral health problems, which can lead to serious health complications, in addition to causing unnecessary pain and suffering. In addition, visible dental problems such as rotting or missing teeth, which are common among homeless population, can undermine an individual's search for employment, as employers may be reluctant to hire someone with these problems. In 2006, the Towson University Department of Nursing launched a pilot oral health care project at the Helping Up Mission, a nonprofit, faith-based organization that provides nursing, supportive services, and residential substance abuse treatment, to homeless men in East Baltimore. Working
in partnership with the University of Maryland Dental School, the project recruits nursing and dental students to provide screenings and health education, and volunteer dentists, dental hygienists and oral surgeons to provide restorative care to residents of the Mission. As of June 2012, the project had provided critical oral health treatment to 841 homeless men, and had enlisted over 600 nursing and dental students in the effort.
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