The Arc & United Health Foundation: $2.5M Partnership Targets Mental Health Crisis for Disabled

United Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of UnitedHealth Group , has bestowed a generous three-year, $2.5 million grant upon The Arc of the United States. This grant aims to enhance mental health care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), a demographic where up to 40% grapple with co-occurring mental health issues. The funding addresses the pressing need to support their mental well-being.

Presently, only 1 in 10 children and adolescents facing IDD and mental health disorders receive specialized services. Furthermore, individuals with disabilities report three times higher rates of suicidal ideation compared to their counterparts without disabilities. Additionally, adults with disabilities are 3.5 times more prone to experiencing frequent mental distress. These stark realities underscore the urgency for comprehensive training and awareness among caregivers and providers to effectively address the mental health needs of individuals with disabilities.

Katy Neas, CEO of The Arc of the United States, remarked, “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities encounter hurdles from the onset, impacting their mental health directly. Yet, too often, their mental health requirements remain unaddressed due to stigma, inadequate training, and biases.” She expressed gratitude for the significant investment by the United Health Foundation, which paves the way for confronting this mental health crisis head-on. The grant will facilitate essential training for various stakeholders, including medical professionals, caregivers, first responders, educators, and families, to ensure robust support for the mental health needs of individuals with disabilities.

As part of this partnership, $100,000 in direct grants will be allocated to 10 chapters of The Arc across the nation. These funds will bolster local initiatives tailored to individuals with IDD, focusing on enhancing access to quality mental health services, fostering collaboration between disability and health systems, training over 2,000 providers and caregivers to recognize mental health needs in individuals with IDD, and launching public awareness campaigns to combat stigma and misconceptions.

Dan Schumacher, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, emphasized the power of empathy and collaboration in driving meaningful change. He affirmed United Health Foundation’s commitment to forging robust partnerships and providing resources to address community needs. Together with The Arc, they anticipate significant positive outcomes for providers, caregivers, and the individuals they serve.

A pivotal aspect of the grant involves collaboration with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing to adapt its evidence-based Mental Health First Aid program to incorporate IDD-specific information. This training equips participants with the skills to identify and respond to signs of mental illness and substance disorders. Over the next three years, the grant will empower caregivers, healthcare professionals, first responders, educators, and family members to better recognize and address the mental health needs of individuals with IDD, thereby reducing mental health crisis incidents within this population.

Furthermore, the partnership will directly provide mental health resources to individuals with IDD through participating chapters, enabling them to articulate and address their own needs. This aspect is crucial not only for the individuals themselves but also for their families, as research indicates that the mental well-being of parents of children with IDD is significantly influenced by the severity of their child’s co-occurring mental health conditions.

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