Woonsocket Health Equity Zone wins $250,000 to launch "Child Friendly" initiative


The Woonsocket Health Equity Zone is getting $250,000 from the Rhode ISland Foundation to launch a "Child Friendly Woonsocket" initiative. The grant is among $1.375 million in funding awarded by the Foundation statewide to improve behavioral health.


“These are extraordinarily stressful times for so many people in our state. Existing behavioral health challenges have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19. These grants focus on addressing disparities in access to behavioral health services and substance use treatment that are having a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, including communities of color,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.


The “Child Friendly Woonsocket” initiative will be led by the Health Equity Zone Steering Committee, which is comprised of residents and dozens of local organizations, including Thundermist Health, the Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association and the WATCH (Woonsocket Alliance to Champion Hope) Coalition.


“Places are child friendly when all children and families live in neighborhoods where people are connected to each other and to community resources that reinforce health and well-being,” said Thundermist Health's Jacobsen.


“We’re talking about creating and nurturing places where trusting relationships are built on a foundation of mutual respect, where cultural sensitivity and humility exist between residents of all ages, where children and youth live in safe, nurturing homes within families and communities that support healthy development,” said Jacobsen.


The partnership will develop a data-driven strategy by engaging residents, including caregivers, youth, local partners and state agencies. The goal is to use the data to build a resilient community that addresses the social and structural determinants of good mental health.              


“Our partners will seek to impact population-level health equity, including reducing police involvement in school discipline events, expediting child and caregiver behavioral health treatment; increasing the number of infant child care slots in Woonsocket and increasing on-time well visits to pediatricians,” said Jacobsen.


In addition to Woonsocket Health Equity Zone, six other organizations also received grants to improve behavioral health services in Central Falls, Cranston, West Warwick, Newport County and South County. All seven proposals align with the Foundation’s long-term plan for health that has been endorsed by the Governor’s office and legislative leaders.


The Foundation received 39 applications. The recipients were selected based on how well they brought together clinical and community-based organizations, engaged residents, proposed measuring outcomes and leveraged other funding or in-kind support.


“We sought place-based initiatives that will bring together partners that have a shared vision and action plan to address the crucial social determinants of health,” said Foundation CEO Steinberg.


The funding is through the Foundation’s Fund for a Healthy Rhode Island.


The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $98 million and awarded $76 million in grants in 2021. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit rifoundation.org.