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St. Luke’s Awards Funds to Six Wood River Nonprofits
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Monday, March 18, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

St. Luke’s Health System has awarded six Wood River Valley organizations Community Health Improvement Funds in a bid to improve the well-being of Wood River Valley residents.

The hospital system is awarding grants to Family Health Service Far+Wise, Men’s Second Chance Living, The Senior Connection, Syringa Mountain School and the Wood River YMCA.

The hospital system is handing out $686,295 in CHIF grants to 85 nonprofits to improve the health of people in the communities the hospital serves, including the Wood River Valley, Treasure Valley, West Treasure Valley, Elmore County, Valley County and Adams County

St. Luke’s will invest an additional $328,700 in Magic Valley nonprofits this year.

The hospital gave special consideration to organizations who address health needs identified through St. Luke’s Community Health Needs Assessment.

Consideration is given to nonprofits that address community health needs, such as safe neighborhoods, transportation, affordable housing, mental health and well-being, suicide prevention, substance misuse, affordable health care, improving caregiving and early learning, improving healthy air and water quality and access to nutritious foods.

“(The assessment) allows us to pinpoint, assess and address each community’s most critical needs,” said Theresa McLeod, St. Luke’s Health System administrator of community health and engagement.

"While hospitals are typically associated with clinical care, St. Luke’s Health System goes beyond hospital walls to provide extensive support to our community,” added Eric Thomas, St. Luke’s Wood River community board chair.

Family Health Services, located in the city of Bellevue, serves the uninsured and under-insured in Blaine County.  A $1 million grant from the St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation (SLWRF) helped to make the clinic in Bellevue a reality. SLWRF and St. Luke’s continue to award grant funds to provide funding for high quality, culturally sensitive primary medical, dental, behavioral health, social services, and discount pharmacy services that are affordable and accessible. The 2024 CHIF grant will help address access to dental care. In the last 12 months, 996 unique patients accessed medical care in the Bellevue clinic over 2,241 separate encounters. Nearly 500 unique patients accessed affordable dental care over 1,001 separate encounters and 109 patients accessed enabling services over 254 separate encounters.

“These funds will allow us to purchase much-needed dental equipment and supplies for our Bellevue clinic.  The equipment and supplies will allow FHS to continue to provide primary dental services to our low-income patients who don't have insurance coverage.  The grant was also used to purchase hygiene kits for home use for adults, children and babies who struggle to afford these important dental products,” said Aaron Houston, Family Health Services CEO.

Far + Wise is committed to helping under-resourced children in the community change their lives through the power of education via free, long-term academic, social-emotional, and life skills support, enrichment opportunities, college and career preparation, and family engagement.

“What makes our approach so unique is our personal, year-round engagement with the same group of youth, from early elementary through high school and beyond,” said Executive Director, Laura Rose-Lewis.  

St. Luke’s CHIF funding supports social-emotional learning in their Elementary Program and in other grades during the academic year.

“Social-emotional development has always been a part of our mission, but we are seeing an increasing need for such support in our elementary students. Approximately 50% of each cohort has SEL challenges, and up to 25% require focused small group or 1-to-1 support,” said Lewis.

Men’s Second Chance Living (MSCL) House provides safe and sober living to adult men in early recovery from substance use disorder. Programs include the safe and sober living house; funding for counseling, preventative dental and medical care and crisis care; financial education classes; matched savings accounts; education costs; and nutrition assistance.

“Housing is the most critical pillar of our mission,” said Executive Director Sonja Wilander. “Our programs are holistic and go well beyond housing, however. The men address the root causes and impacts of substance dependency and work constructively to improve their futures. Our additional proven programs include funding and support for physical and mental healthcare.”

The Senior Connection will use St. Luke's Community Health Improvement Fund towards the Vision & Hearing Center to ensure that no one will be turned away due to an inability to pay.

“Loss of these senses contributes to isolation as older adults can no longer participate in fulfilling activities with their family and friends like they did before. Our older adult community (approximately 5,545 adults 65+ according to the U.S. Census Bureau) will have access to these services that will help them maintain their quality of life and overall wellbeing,” said Mary Simms, director of Donor and Community Relations.

Syringa Mountain School, located in Hailey, is developing a social group program that serves students kindergarten through 8th grade. The social groups, focusing on those in need of social-emotional support are guided by licensed counselors skilled in addressing contemporary emotional and social challenges, help students navigate the challenges of the post-COVID era where many students may feel isolated, anxious, or uncertain.

“Importantly, our project considers and accommodates different cultural backgrounds and linguistic needs; it can help bridge language and cultural barriers, ensuring that all students, regardless of their background, have access to vital emotional support,” said Director Christi Thompson.”

The Wood River YMCA is now serving more than 30 percent of the community's children, who have been identified and recruited by the school district, to recover lost learning days or to create equity for children who are 1-2 tiers below grade level in reading or who are English language learners, said explained Jason Scherer, the Y’s executive director.

The Wood River Community Y formed partnerships with the College of Idaho, Teach for America, Far + Wise, Lee Pesky Learning Center and local public and private schools to open pop-up schools in old buildings or school buildings during the summer, enrolling more than 300 kids in the SummerBridge program. In addition to literacy, the Y provides education about agriculture and the environment, school-age care for low-income children, drowning prevention, and social-emotional learning.

“Our community partners are all doing amazing work throughout our Valley,” said Sarah Seppa, St. Luke’s Wood River’s director of Community Engagement. “I am always impressed with the thoughtfulness and thoroughness that go into providing programs and services that work to prevent and/or help individuals overcome obstacles to physical and mental health.  They often dedicate their heart, their skills, their time and other resources, going above and beyond, to make a difference.  It’s rewarding to be able to assist with a CHIF grant to further the work that they do.”

St. Luke’s begins accepting CHIF grant applications from non-profit organizations every summer. In the Treasure Valley, McCall and Wood River applications open in August and close Sept. 30. Magic Valley accepts applications two times a year, in February and in July. 

Each application is reviewed by multiple committees, expert volunteers and St. Luke’s leaders. As part of the grant award, receiving organizations must submit an ‘Activation Report’ by October 1, outlining how the grant dollars were used and where the impact was made. 

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