Leveraging Resources for Greater Impact

From the Rural Health Information Hub by Kay Miller Temple

The Rural Health Care Coordination Network Partnership connects federal funders with local philanthropic organizations to help rural areas get the necessary funding they need to improve health in their communities. Learn more in Rural Health Philanthropy Partnership: Leveraging Public-Private Funds to Improve Health, in the Rural Monitor.

Empire Health, Catholic Charities team up to keep Spokane kids out of foster care

From The Spokesman-Review by Rachel Alexander

It’s no secret that kids placed in Washington’s foster care system often struggle later in life.

Statewide, fewer than half of children in foster care graduate from high school. Former foster children are more likely to end up in jail or homeless, and their rates of college attendance are in the single digits.

“There’s a lot of research now to support this fact that kids who go through foster care tend to end up with lifelong consequences,” said Nadine Van Stone, the vice president of crisis response and shelters at Catholic Charities.

After years of work, Empire Health Foundation believes it’s found a solution: keep those kids from entering foster care in the first place.

The foundation is partnering with Catholic Charities to open a new program called Rising Strong, which will offer support to parents in danger of losing their kids to the foster care system. It’s an all-encompassing program designed to help parents kick drug or alcohol addiction, which are the main contributors to losing custody.

“We also believe in the power of families to help each other,” said Mike Yeaton, chief strategy officer for Empire. “Often these parents, they don’t want to stay in an addictive life.”

A pilot program, focusing on 20 families, will start in October at the former site of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary convent. Families will live together on-site and have access to mental health care, substance abuse treatment, parenting classes, work training, GED programs and more.

“The foster care entry rate in Spokane County has been significantly above the state average,” Yeaton said.

The system itself is overtaxed, and social services to keep families out of it are lacking, he said.

“If you can help those parents to restore their family functioning, that’s the best way to help those things,” he said.

Rising Strong is modeled on a similar program in Los Angeles called Exodus, which has a 90 percent success rate in keeping families together.

The goal is to eventually serve 50 families in one of the permanent supportive housing units Catholic Charities is building on the former convent site, Van Stone said. Families would live in an apartment on-site and receive ongoing support for roughly 12 to 18 months, though the length will depend on individual needs.

It’s estimated to cost about $1 million a year, which would be about $20,000 per family served. That’s significantly cheaper than the cost of court visits, arrests and other costs associated with keeping a child in foster care for a year, Yeaton said.

Funding has come from Providence Health Care and Premera Blue Cross, which announced a two-year, $175,000 grant this week. The team is looking into state and federal grants as well.

Empire has partnered with Washington State University to collect data on the pilot program and demonstrate its effectiveness, both in terms of family outcomes and cost savings.

Families will receive peer support and can come back to Rising Strong for services if they need them, Yeaton said.

“You are there for those families in the future too,” he said. “It’ll be a sustained involvement in these families’ lives.”

Spokane's Uninsured Population Is Dropping Dramatically

Check out the following article from our friends at the Community Indicators Initiative about the Spokane uninsured population dropping dramatically. EHF's own Brian Myers weighs in on the conversation with expert insight!


Washington’s Cancer Research Fund Selects Spokane’s Empire Health Foundation As Program Administrator for New Public-Private Partnership

CARE Fund’s First RFP to Bring Top Cancer Researchers to State Coming This Summer

The Cancer Research Endowment (CARE) Fund, a new public-private partnership that supports cancer research in Washington, has selected Empire Health Foundation (EHF) in Spokane to serve as its Program Administrator. EHF will be responsible for administering grants to fund cancer research that utilizes the best science with the greatest potential to improve health outcomes for Washingtonians.    

“We are excited to have Empire Health Foundation as a partner in this new approach to supporting cancer research in Washington state,” said Dr. Frederick Appelbaum, chair of the CARE Board and executive vice president and deputy director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “The CARE Fund will leverage our state’s existing cancer research organizations and talent to advance cancer care in Washington. With new investments, we are going to recruit top researchers from all over the world to bring their best-in-class talent to Washington and set the stage for new collaborations that can generate the next big discovery in cancer research.”

“Empire Health Foundation is deeply committed to the CARE Fund’s goals and is eager to launch and scale this important initiative for our state,” said Antony Chiang, president of Empire Health Foundation. “Washington has world-class, innovative cancer research happening across the state, and the CARE Fund will provide critical support to push those efforts even further.”

The CARE Fund was seeded with $5 million in public funding in the 2015-17 budget. The Legislature is authorized to provide up to $10 million per year in public funding for 10 years, and all public funding must be matched by private or other non-state resources. 

The Board recently adopted an initial strategic plan to focus on two priority areas:

  • Distinguished Researchers. The CARE Fund will match up to $500,000 to fund recruitment packages that bring leading cancer researchers to cancer research institutions in Washington.
  • Breakthrough Fund. The Breakthrough Fund will provide grants up to $750,000 in the first year to partnerships or collaborations solving a critical problem or trying to achieve a transformational breakthrough.

A request for proposals for the Distinguished Researchers program will be released this summer. Proposals for the Breakthrough Fund will be solicited and evaluated later this year. 

As part of its work as Program Administrator, EHF will work with expert scientific review panels to provide independent evaluation of grant applications. Only grants recommended by the review panels can be awarded by the CARE Board.

CARE is created and defined by statute (RCW 43.348), wherein the Legislature and Governor recognized that “Washington has an existing infrastructure of world-class cancer research and care centers for children and adults that can develop and apply new techniques for the prevention of cancer and care of cancer patients throughout the state.” Lawmakers further found that “sustained investment in cancer research, prevention, and care is critical to reducing long-term health costs, saving lives, and relieving pain and suffering.” CARE is intended to provide additional public resources dedicated exclusively to cancer research.

The CARE Board, appointed by the Governor, includes Elaine Albert (Seattle Children’s Hospital), Leslie Alexandre (Life Science Washington), Frederick Appelbaum (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), Thomas Brown (Swedish Cancer Institute), David Byrd (University of Washington Medicine), Weihang Chai (Washington State University), Carol Dahl (The Lemelson Foundation), Steven Harr (Juno Therapeutics), James Hendricks (Seattle Children’s Research Institute), Eunice Hostetter (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network), and Jennifer Kampsula Wong (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network). 

The CARE Board first met in October 2016 to discuss priorities for cancer research funding and to begin mapping out a strategic funding plan; adopted its initial strategic plan in February 2017; issued the Program Administrator RFP in April 2017; and selected EHF after a competitive bidding process. The Department of Commerce finalized the contract with EHF for that role earlier this month.

Empire Health Foundation (www.empirehealthfoundation.org) is a private health conversion foundation formed in 2008 through the sale of Deaconess and Valley Medical, a nonprofit hospital system in Spokane.  Stewarding philanthropic assets totaling approximately $80 million, EHF invests in ideas and organizations that improve access, education, research and policy to result in a measurably healthier region.



CARE Fund:        

Thomas Bates



Empire Health Foundation:

Sarah Lyman