Thresholds Collaboration Expands: 2003 – 2004

Sue Braun, MS, RN, CS, at work delivering health care services to a Thresholds client.

Washington Square Health Foundation takes pride in pro-actively making grants, in special cases, to transform strong ideas into strong programs in practice. Utilizing the experience and expertise of the Foundation Staff and our Consultants, grant ideas that enhance a particular goal of the Foundation often need to be “fine-tuned” to develop an optimally effective fundable project. From time-to-time the Foundation uses this pro-active method to leverage other funding sources to increase the feasibility of such grant projects. One such grant occurred this year with Thresholds. Its program includes psychiatric rehabilitation centers that serve a population with a primary diagnosis of severe and persistent mental illness.

Along with the obvious problems associated with this disease, Thresholds’ clients are also in need of primary health care services. Many suffer from obesity, diabetes and hypertension, which often go undiagnosed and untreated. These unmet health care needs not only jeopardize mental health treatment but also result in earlier deaths for this group of individuals. Cognitive, behavioral and social factors that characterize mental illness may make Thresholds’ clients unwilling or unable to seek treatment or receive routine preventive and primary health care services. In order to address these continuing needs, Thresholds entered into a partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Nursing. This partnership has proved to be beneficial to all involved. While Thresholds clients are receiving quality health care, some for the first time ever, the nursing staff and students are receiving hands-on experience in working with this very specialized population. This program, which originally received initial Washington Square Health Foundation “seed” money, has been effective on a relatively small scale for the past five years, while the number of individuals receiving care has increased quite rapidly. The annual visits to the health care clinics increased from 2000 in 2001 to 3000 in 2002, and have continued to grow since.

This successful initial growth of the program made it clear that Thresholds might be a prime candidate for funding from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJ) under their Local Initiative Funding Partners program, to expand the collaboration with UIC to be able to treat more patients more efficiently. The recipients of these grants undergo an extremely competitive review process and, if funded, will receive matching dollars of up to $125,000 a year for four years from RWJ. This translates into a $1,000,000 endeavor. In order to aid Thresholds in securing this grant, the Washington Square Health Foundation Staff, along with our Consultant, Kathleen Pietschmann, RN, ND, CS, met numerous times with the staff of UIC and Thresholds to iron out the details of the collaboration on a larger scale. The Thresholds project was approved for RWJ funding and, as a result, was also the recipient of a Washington Square Health Foundation matching Grant. Washington Square Health Foundation’s Executive Director, and its Consultant, spent many hours on this project with Thresholds and UIC personnel to make a successful RWJ proposal.