Florida Blue Foundation 2021 Sapphire Awards honor nine organizations for excellent services addressing mental well-being, health equity and food security

An organization that serves individuals with mental health and substance use disorders and a specialty care clinic that utilizes clinical health workers to connect underserved patients with community resources are among nine recipients of the Florida Blue Foundation's annual Sapphire Awards. The honorees will share $500,000 in funding that will allow them to continue to focus on innovative ideas and programs to meet local community needs.

The Florida Blue Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the state's Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, announced the nine honorees at its annual Sapphire Awards ceremony, which was held virtually on May 4. Each of the individuals, programs and organizations are making a meaningful impact in their communities related to three key drivers of health: mental well-being, health equity or food security.  

"Our mission of helping people and communities achieve better health goes far beyond physical health," said Susan Towler, executive director of the Florida Blue Foundation. "We can help build stronger communities by supporting local organizations that address the barriers preventing the most vulnerable people from reaching their highest health potential."

Through a robust external review process, the honorees were selected for their exemplary leadership, innovation and excellence. They all have a track record of success through documented outcomes and impacts related to mental well-being, health equity and food security – all of which have a major impact on overall health outcomes.

Below are the honorees in the mental well-being category:

  • UCF Restores (Orlando) is a nonprofit clinical research center and treatment clinic that is dedicated to changing the way post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related concerns are understood, diagnosed and treated. UCF Restores, which is part of the University of Central Florida, serves veterans, active duty personnel, first responders and survivors of mass shootings and sexual assault. UCF Restores received a $60,000 award.
  • DACCO Behavioral Health (Tampa) serves people with mental health and substance use disorders. The organization is one of Florida's largest community-based providers of behavioral health services. They serve about 4,000 people a year through treatment programs and another 56,000 through prevention and outreach services. DACCO Behavioral Health received a $75,000 award.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen (Jacksonville), the medical director for the Partnership for Child Health and a professor and the chief of the Division of Community and Societal Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville, has been recognized in the individual category for his efforts to support mental well-being services. Dr. Goldhagen said the $60,000 award will support the Partnership for Child Health, a nonprofit  that advances medical, mental, behavioral, and developmental health priorities for children and families in North Florida.

Below are the honorees in the health equity category:

  • UF Health Total Care Clinic (Jacksonville) provides primary and specialty care services to people who are low income but don't qualify for traditional Medicaid. The six clinics provide patients with access to a team of physicians, medical assistants, pharmacists, social workers and nutritionists. As part of their approach to holistic care, they utilize clinical health workers to connect patients with much-needed community resources. The Total Care Clinic received a $60,000 award.
  • Starting Right, Now (Tampa) is an organization committed to ending homelessness for youth by providing a stable home, one-on-one mentoring, assistance with employment opportunities, teaching financial literacy/life skills and promoting educational achievement. They serve a niche population of homeless, unaccompanied youth who are not eligible for foster care because they have not been taken from their homes but instead, have chosen to leave because of a dangerous or unlivable condition. This organization received a $75,000 award.
  • Karen Woodall (Tallahassee), the executive director for the Florida People's Advocacy Center, has been recognized in the individual category for her efforts to support health equity. Woodall said the $40,000 award she received will support the Florida People's Advocacy Center, which is committed to increasing social and economic justice throughout Florida by facilitating and providing training in civic engagement at the state capitol.
  • Ability Housing (Jacksonville) is working to build strong communities by providing quality affordable housing. This group ensures families and individuals with a disability and/or those experiencing or are at-risk of homelessness have wrap-around support to help them achieve their full potential. This organization received a $50,000 award.
  • El Sol Jupiter's Neighborhood Resource Center (Jupiter) is committed to improving the quality of life for the residents of Jupiter and surrounding communities by providing services primarily to day laborers, their children and families. The organization provides health, legal, youth development, adult education, vocational training and nutrition education to help their clients become independent and self-sufficient. This organization was honored with a $50,000 award.

Below is the honoree in the food security category:

  • Fleet Farming (Orlando) is a nonprofit urban agriculture program of IDEAS For Us whose mission is to empower all generations to grow food to increase local food accessibility. The program provides edible landscaping to schools, community centers, affordable housing units, businesses and individuals through its community farming initiative and Edible Landscapes garden installation service. This program was honored with a $30,000 award.

This is the 16th year the Florida Blue Foundation has presented the Sapphire Awards to individuals, programs and organizations in community health. Since 2005, the Florida Blue Foundation has given out 114 Sapphire Awards, totaling more than $5.5 million.

About Florida Blue Foundation
Florida Blue Foundation enables healthy communities by making grants, building coalitions and embracing solutions that create a meaningful impact in our communities. More than 6.5 million Floridians have received services as a result of our community investments since our founding in 2001. The Florida Blue Foundation's programs are focused on advancing mental well-being, improving health equity, impacting food security and addressing systemic racism and resulting health disparities. It is a trade name of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, please visit www.FloridaBlueFoundation.com.

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