Le Moyne College has received a $30,000 Health Equity Innovation Award from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. The award is part of more than $520,000 in financial support for community programs that address health disparities across the upstate New York service area of Excellus. (Read the Excellus release here.)
At Le Moyne, the funds will be used beginning in 2024 to create a peer-based health promotion approach called Dolphins Spreading HOPE! (Healthy Optimistic Positive Experience) to reach high school students at risk for mental health issues and suicidality. Le Moyne plans to deploy approximately 30 Le Moyne student “Wellness Ambassadors,” who will have already completed a resiliency-based course and will be trained in suicide prevention, into their home communities throughout Central New York high schools. The resiliency-based course at Le Moyne is currently funded by a two-year, $300,000 grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation.
“We are thrilled to be a recipient of this highly competitive award from Excellus,” said Anne Kearney, LCSW-R, dean of student wellbeing for Le Moyne. “The plan to empower our students to become wellness ambassadors within their own communities aligns perfectly with Le Moyne’s mission to serve. In addition, the research tells us that helping others helps our own well-being, so there is mutual benefit all the way around.”
The College will partner with the Greater Central New York Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), which serves, among many others, Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Oswego and Tompkins counties. Le Moyne will work with AFSP to have Le Moyne student ambassadors participate in programs, panel discussions, large group information sessions and individual classrooms as well as local community events. The Wellness Ambassadors will aim to increase connections, reduce stigma about help seeking, offer guidance about preparing for the stresses of life, college, or career, and ultimately increase hope for the youth in our communities.
Excellus BCBS’s funding will support 20 non-profit organizations across the Central New York, Rochester, Utica, the North Country and Southern Tier regions. With more than 180 applicants, a comprehensive review process included input from individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences to assess each proposal. Grant recipients were selected based on clear, defined goals and measurable results for reducing health disparities and improving health equity.