New Grants Will Expand Mental Health Programs and Promote Physical Activity in McDowell County

Investments Part of Healthy Places NC Initiative

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is funding a culinary arts program to assist at-risk youth in McDowell County as well as a half-mile fitness trail at McDowell Technical Community College (MTCC). The funding is a part of a series of grants announced by the Trust that will expand access to mental health services and increase opportunities for physical activity in the county. These investments are part of the Trust’s Healthy Places NC initiative, a long-term initiative aimed at improving the quality of life and health in rural, financially disadvantaged North Carolina counties.

The Trust awarded $82,498 to Aspire Youth & Family Inc.’s Kids at Work program—a sixteen-week after school, culinary arts program that assists teens, often with behavioral issues, in developing communication skills and behaviors that build personal and social responsibility. The grant also includes funding for therapy sessions for participants and their families. Through the grant up to 180 McDowell County youth will participate in the program.

In addition the Trust awarded McDowell Hospital $281,460 to support a partnership with McDowell Pediatrics to provide behavioral health services—ranging from mental illness to substance abuse—to children and adolescents. The program will increase the county’s access to mental health screenings, behavioral health and psychiatric services. The program will screen 875 children; provide on-site behavioral health services to nearly 800 patients and provide psychiatric services to more than 300 patients over a three year period.

“Addressing the mental health needs and providing more programs and support for those that need them is a critical part of how our community is coming together to make McDowell County a healthier place to live,” said Josh Kennedy, executive director of the McDowell County Health Coalition. “The depth and breadth of our community partnerships is what makes McDowell County unique, and it is the level of commitment toward the wellbeing of our neighbors that unifies our efforts. These factors enable our initiatives to achieve realization and impact even more residents.”

The Trust also announced more than $2 million in funding to bring nationally recognized, evidence-based depression care treatment to low-income older adults in six counties, including McDowell.  Known as

IMPACT (Improving Mood: Promoting Access to Collaboration), the model includes a depression care manager for each patient; collaboration between a patient’s primary care physician, depression care manager and psychiatrist; monitoring a patient’s success; and adapting treatment if there is no improvement 10 to 12 weeks later.

The Trust also awarded MTCC $150,000 to construct a half-mile fitness trail that will provide opportunities for students, staff and community members to engage in physical activity. The proposed tobacco-free trail will follow an existing dormant rail spur through a scenic wooded area and include an eight foot wide paved trail interspersed with ten fitness stations.  The trail will connect the main campus to the new Universal Skills Center and also provide access to physical fitness opportunities for residents from Dysartsville and Glenwood neighborhoods. 

“McDowell County continues to make great strides to tackle some of the most pressing health issues for its residents,” said Abena Asante, senior program officer for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “There is momentum in the community to improve health —ranging from mental health to active living. The Trust is excited to continue to work with the community on these issues to the improve quality of life and well-being of residents.”

Additional active living grants awarded include grants to the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell District Health Department and the McDowell County Schools. The Health Department funding supports the development of a playground area and the purchase of exercise equipment targeting children and their caregivers. The School System will use the Trust’s support for outdoor sports equipment and the development of walking trails in the middle schools and the alternative learning center.

McDowell County has been participating in Healthy Places NC since 2012. The Trust plans to invest $100 million in 10 to 15 rural, low-income countries over a 10-year period. Four other counties—Beaufort, Burke, Halifax and Rockingham—currently participate in Healthy Places.

The Trust announced the McDowell County grants as a part of its recent grant cycle, when the trustee approved 44 Health Care Division grants totaling more than $10.6 million to improve the overall health of North Carolinians across the state. For a complete list of recent grants approved by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust’s Health Care Division, see the attached list.