Health funding will get big boost

$61 million foundation has nonprofit officials thinking of programs

April 04, 1999|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

A new $61.2 million foundation in Howard County -- one devoted to improving residents' health -- has local officials and nonprofit directors, long-strapped for funds, making wish lists and dreaming about all the programs that could come true.

The head of the county Health Department wants to help drug addicts. A shelter director wants subsidized dental care for the poor. An advocate for immigrants would like more medical translators, and the director of a domestic violence center wants community education programs.

The Howard County Community Health Foundation, the result of a July merger between Howard County General Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medicine, is 10 times wealthier than the next-largest foundation in the county and ranks as one of the 20 largest foundations in the Baltimore area.

Hopkins agreed to create a health foundation with the money left over from the merger, minus expenses. Hopkins put $61 million into the foundation in January and is expected to put in up to $7.5 million more in a year and a half, said Richard G. McCauley, chairman of the foundation's board of directors. The principal, which will be invested, is expected to spin off millions of dollars every year.

"I think we can shoot very high," said Richard M. Krieg, foundation chief executive. Krieg, the executive director and CEO of the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs in Chicago, a university policy center, will start full time at the foundation in May.

Barbara Lawson, executive director of the Columbia Foundation -- the second-largest foundation in the county, with almost $6 million in assets -- said she was "thrilled for the community."

`Think really big'

"The health foundation is very blessed with some great thinkers, some great visionaries," she said. "We're not talking about making the types of grants that the Columbia Foundation makes. We make grants, but they are really small."

She encouraged the board to "think really big" and threw out one idea: "Wouldn't it be fabulous if every child at 5 years old could be eye-tested?"

Krieg and McCauley said they are researching the county's health needs and won't be ready to make grants until later this year.

Although reluctant to go into specifics, Krieg and McCauley described their priorities as caretakers of the largest foundation Howard County has ever seen.

They said they are interested in prevention programs, in improving access to health care, in alternative therapies such as acupuncture, and in tackling drug abuse and domestic violence.

They also want to support health partnerships that might create new approaches to health care and data-gathering activities that will allow the community to set priorities and monitor programs.

McCauley said the new foundation doesn't want to compete with existing programs or foundations.

"We'll work with the health department of Howard County and the Howard County government," he said. "Our viewpoint is very collaborative. The kinds of problems we are going to attack are going to require a lot more than we alone have."

Betsy S. Nelson, executive director of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers in Baltimore, said the new foundation is definitely among the top 20 in size and possibly in the top 10 in Baltimore -- and the biggest devoted to health issues that she knows of.

Although the foundation is not processing grant applications, county officials and directors of nonprofits are dreaming about ways to put it to use.

A few program ideas

Mary Sue Baker, acting health officer for the Howard County Health Department, wants more funding for inpatient addiction treatment, a heroin detoxification program and health education for low-income families and teens.

Rob Goldman, chairman of the Howard County Health Improvement Leadership Team, said he'd like funding to increase residents' physical activities and to improve nutrition.

Judy Clancy, director of the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County, said one of her top priorities is raising awareness in the community by starting a community education program and possibly even an advertising campaign like the successful ones against smoking and drunken driving.

"There's a real need in Howard County to raise the visibility of the issue," she said.

Andrea Ingram, executive director of Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center in Columbia -- a group that offers services and shelter to those in crisis -- said that she would like to see, among other things, free dental care for those who can't afford it.

"We were not able to pull off any kind of donated dental service," she said. "So basically people go without it until there's an emergency."

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