Ballad Health invests $2 million in community organizations to improve children’s health in the Appalachian Highlands

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, May 27, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

JOHNSON CITY  — Furthering its long-standing commitment to community health improvement in the Appalachian Highlands, Ballad Health is supporting 21 regional, community-based organizations with a more than $2 million investment.
Ballad Health is working alongside these organizations across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to support specific goals and strategies aimed at improving health outcomes in the region, ranging from providing social support services and navigation for women suffering from addiction to keeping youth from dropping out of school. These investments recognize the important correlation between early childhood experiences, educational achievement and health outcomes. They also recognize the importance of collective impact, a concept embraced by the regional STRONG Accountable Care Community (ACC), for which Ballad Health serves as a backbone organization.
“One of the best ways we can impact community health in the Appalachian Highlands is to work alongside and support the community organizations that are part of the STRONG Accountable Care Community and which are already doing fantastic work at the ground level,” said Dr. Paula Masters, vice president of health programs at Ballad Health. “By adding resources and funding to different corners of the not-for-profit realm, we can all work together to tackle the unique health issues our communities face.”
“Together, we stand a better chance at implementing change and achieving the goal embedded in our name – Striving Toward Resilience and Opportunity for the Next Generation,” added Mark Cruise, director of the STRONG Accountable Care Community. “When different kinds of organizations work together to achieve a shared vision, that collective impact helps ensure lasting change. We are thrilled with the support these organizations are receiving as part of Ballad Health’s commitment to the shared vision of the STRONG ACC.”
This latest investment spans several different areas of program impact, including food insecurity, parenting and resilience training and substance abuse treatment, by investing in the organizations that work every day to combat these issues.
Ballad Health first provided $500,000 to 10 local organizations in 2019 to begin developing strategies to tackle health disparities in the region. The four-fold increase in funding now allows the system’s population health division to expand the partnership to 21 organizations across the Appalachian Highlands, working with organizations such as Communities in Schools and Feeding America Southwest Virginia to bring more direct support to children and families.
“We’re really excited to see what impact this year’s investments will have on our community members – our neighbors,” Masters said. “We’re expecting these programs could touch as many as 32,000 lives across the region. That’s 32,000 people who are receiving support toward a better future – 32,000 families who gain access to resources that are desperately needed.”
Communities in Schools Southwest Virginia received funding from Ballad Health in 2019 to use in its mission to lower dropout rates in area schools. The organization connects schools to their communities by placing on-site coordinators in schools who guide students and their families to find community-based resources they might qualify for and need.
“We’re so happy to be part of this initiative again this year,” said Chase Stewart, executive director of Communities in Schools Southwest Virginia. “This investment from Ballad Health opened doors for our organization in 2019, and when doors are opened for us, doors are opened for the hundreds of at-risk children we serve.
“Whether we are providing meals or helping children with different abilities excel in class, each child we support represents one step toward a stronger future for them, their community and our region.”
In Tennessee, Mom Power of Families Free serves Carter, Sullivan, Greene, Unicoi, Hawkins and Washington counties, offering evidence-based, therapeutic parenting intervention for mothers and children who have experienced stressors such as trauma, mental health challenges or poverty. The organization offers a 13-week parenting course for mothers to empower them through supporting safe, stable and nurturing relationships and emotional well-being.
“One of the best ways to make sure kids have a strong, healthy childhood is to make sure a woman has the resources she needs to be the best mother she can be,” said Dr. Diana Morelen, implementation supervisor of Mom Power of Families Free and assistant professor in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Psychology.
“Mom Power offers this through support services that allow mothers to cope and heal from their own trauma. Parenting is hard when you have a village and even harder when you don’t. Mom Power seeks to engage women who want to give their child a better experience than what they were given. Through wrap-around programming we are able to address families’ basic needs (e.g., transportation and meal support), mental health needs and relational needs. At Mom Power, we want mothers to experience safe, stable and nurturing relationships so they are able to provide that for their children.
“We were excited to receive this support in 2019, and we’re looking forward to helping all the families we can with the investment this year, too.”
In addition to Communities in Schools Southwest Virginia and Mom Power Families Free, the investment will support:

– Appalachian Highlands Kids Belong
– A Step Ahead Tri-Cities
– Boys and Girls Clubs of Kingsport and Elizabethton/Carter County
– Bristol’s Promise
– Coalition for Kids
– Communities in Schools Northeast Tennessee
– ETSU Pediatrics
– Fahe Housing Collaborative
– Feeding America Southwest Virginia
– Frontier Health
– Mountain Empire of Older Citizens
– YMCAs of Greater Kingsport, Unicoi County and Greene County
– Niswonger Foundation
– People Inc.
– Second Harvest Food Bank
– Strongwell
– Upper East Tennessee Human Development
– United Way of Southwest Virginia
These new partnerships will complement Ballad Health’s existing framework to support children and families in this region. Earlier this year, the health system announced the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network, a massive philanthropic investment into its comprehensive, regional system of care that represents a nearly $60 million commitment to children, families and the future of the Appalachian Highlands.
The children’s network is a regional system of healthcare and community services marking a new phase in high standards of care and well-being for children, regardless of where they live across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The network encompasses the Strong Starts and Strong Futures programs, both of which seek to establish a path of care for mothers, children and families to receive the services they need to thrive.
While Strong Futures takes a 360-degree approach to care for women with substance use disorder and their families through a variety of offerings from counseling to parenting programs, Strong Starts focuses more universally on maternal child health, offering a unique approach to maternity care, early childhood development and family support to all mothers, young children and families of the region regardless of income.
“This community health initiative really goes hand in hand with the overarching work of Ballad Health – we’re focused on how we can improve population health for our communities,” Masters said. “We began to see the change we could affect partnering with the initial 10 organizations, and we can’t wait to see what we can do with twice as many organizations on board this year.”
Please visit to learn more about Ballad Health’s investment in population health and to learn more about its programs for children and families.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox