On June 18, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation presented $78,574 to Youth First, Inc. The grant provided HIPAA-compliant Zoom licenses and certification training in telehealth for Youth First’s mental health professionals.  

Youth First partners with 92 schools across 11 Indiana counties. Youth First Social Workers follow behavioral health best practices to proactively meet with individual students, facilitate small groups, and present to classrooms and large groups as well as consult with parents, teachers, and other community agencies. They are easily accessed by any enrolled student, and services are always free of charge. When school buildings closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, this low-barrier access to crucial mental health support was threatened.  

Thanks to the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation grant, Youth First has now equipped its clinical team with HIPAA-compliant telehealth tools and training to continue their critical work. Through this funding, their proven model of building life skills for mental health resilience and brokering community resources to meet basic needs can continue, if and when school buildings are closed, or students or staff are quarantined or ill. These telehealth tools allowed Youth First’s services and programs to be delivered uninterrupted this past school year, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. These virtual platforms will continue to be used in situations where services can’t be delivered in person.  

“The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation is proud to work with community partners like Youth First to overcome barriers to accessing mental and behavioral health services for our local youth,” said Dr. Kimberly Roop, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Medicaid Plan President in Indiana. “We continue to support telehealth as an important part of a whole-health approach to care, connecting people with mental health services in the way that is most convenient for them.” 

“Though COVID-19 severely disrupted our lives, it also sparked improvements in the way Youth First serves schools, students, and families,” said Parri O. Black, President & CEO of Youth First. “This investment from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation ensures Youth First can provide high-quality remote support for thousands of young people whenever it is needed.” 

In Indiana, data from the State of the Nation’s Mental Health report shows significantly fewer mental health diagnoses last year, particularly among children and adolescents, compared to 2019.  

  • 10 percent overall drop for young children 
  • 5 percent overall drop for adolescents  
  • 13 percent drop for young children diagnosed with ADHD 
  • 9 percent drop for adolescents diagnosed with ADHD 

These findings are part of a report based on Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield claims from 1.8 million Hoosiers.