The Highmark Foundation awards $68,000 in grant funding to VYH

The Highmark Foundation recently awarded $68,000 in grant funding to VYH for RICHY health intervention program in partnership with DeSales University Department of Nursing and Health, Lehigh Valley Health Network, & Marywood University School of Social Work.

The RICHY Project, an innovative integrated behavioral and physical health model, is a program of Valley Youth House. Piloted at the Valley Youth House “Great Beginnings” Maternity Group Home for the past three years with funding from The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, The Highmark Foundation award will expand the program to the agency’s Emergency Youth Shelter.

RICHY (Regional Integrated Collaborative for Healthy Youth) is a health intervention program involving health prevention and promotion services for formerly homeless adolescents and youth staying in emergency shelter. A partnership between DeSales University Department of Nursing and Health, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Marywood University School of Social Work, and Valley Youth House, the initiative combines physical and behavioral health care in a community-based setting. The goal is to improve residents’ health, well-being, knowledge, and self-advocacy skills and to teach residents the skills to appropriately utilize the healthcare system and manage their own health. Services are coordinated and integrated with the larger primary care system in the Lehigh Valley and provide a unique learning experience for DeSales and Marywood students in the integrated care model.

RICHY was developed in response to the need for easy and continuous access to health care services (both clinical preventive services and psycho-education to promote wellness) for residents in housing programs for homeless youth. The project also addresses the need for integrated physical and mental health care, supported by research that establishes that 70% of visits to primary care physicians involve an emotional or behavioral health issue. The youth and young adults served in Valley Youth House programs are especially vulnerable for psychological disorders given histories of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.

“RICHY has proven to support youth in finding their voice in speaking with health care providers. This seems like a simple task but when you think about the number of times you find yourself at the doctor office and forget, or are hesitant to ask a question, imagine if you were in a shelter and only 16 years old” said Lisa Weingartner, MSW, LSW, Sr. Vice President, Northeast Independent Living & Emergency Services, Valley Youth House.

“RICHY has provided our agencies the opportunity to work together in an effort to really support youth in claiming their care as their own. The increased support and communication between the medical providers and the clinicians and case managers helps identify issues to open the door for youth to ask and get answers, allowing them to be incontrol of the conversation and more in control and confident of their care and their child’s care moving forward.” stated Weingartner.

The Highmark Foundation is dedicated to improving the health, well-being, and quality of life for individuals and communities throughout the areas served by Highmark Inc., its subsidiaries and affiliates. The Foundation fulfills its mission by awarding high-impact grants to organizations that implement evidence-based programs aimed at improving community health.

“This grant, which builds on a successful pilot program, truly fits the mission of the Highmark Foundation as it provides behavioral and physical health care to vulnerable youth,” said Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook. “RICHY is an incredible collaborative partnership with proven success and we are proud to support their tremendous work in the Lehigh Valley,” Cook continued.