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Clinic Announces $1 Million in Grants to Integrate Mental Health into After-School Initiatives in Houston

Thursday, May 26, 2016
The David and Helen Gurley Brown Trust and the Menninger Clinic today announced an inaugural $1 million in grants awarded to seven Greater Houston recipients. The grants will establish BridgeUp at Menninger, an innovative model that integrates evidence-based social and emotional learning programs into after-school initiatives to help vulnerable students succeed in school and beyond. This funding is made possible through a $7.5 million grant awarded to Menninger by the Brown Trust.  
While most after-school programs do not focus on mental health, the intent of BridgeUp at Menninger is to address the social, emotional and mental well-being of vulnerable students whose lives have been challenged by economic, health and family hardships.
BridgeUp at Menninger also differs in that the inaugural million dollar investment includes the development of scientific measurements that will evaluate the effectiveness of integrating social and emotional learning into after-school programming as well as the potential for replicating the most effective approaches on a larger scale locally and nationally.
“BridgeUp at Menninger is such a unique opportunity for us to establish a method of blending best practices in academics with best practices in mental health to ensure that our youth become healthy, productive adolescents who thrive,” said C. Edward Coffey, MD, president and CEO of The Menninger Clinic and principal investigator of BridgeUp at Menninger. “It’s the same comprehensive approach to mind, body and spirit that propels inpatient and outpatient mental health services at Menninger, providing hope and initiating lasting change for patients with complex mental illnesses.”
BridgeUp continues the legacy of David Brown and Helen Gurley Brown, who were both passionate about improving the lives of underserved youth through meaningful programs. David Brown was a longtime philanthropist. He was best known as an iconic film and theatre producer, and working with Stephen Spielberg, directed and produced Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy, the Verdict and other films. 
Married to Helen Gurley Brown, the celebrated editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, David Brown served as a Menninger trustee for 18 years and was an advocate for raising mental health awareness. Combining their passions for youth and mental health, the Brown’s idea for BridgeUp at Menninger was born.
Frank Bennack, executive vice chairman at Hearst, and Eve Burton, senior vice president and general counsel of Hearst, are trustees of the Brown Trust. According to Bennack, “David Brown’s long relationship with Menninger confirmed the decision to launch a BridgeUp model in Houston with a focus on mental health.”
BridgeUp at Menninger joins two other BridgeUp models that provide after-school programming for at-risk youth in New York City through the New York Public Library and the American Museum of Natural History.
“Menninger understands many factors contribute to a person’s social and emotional health and that perspective is imperative in developing a BridgeUp model that focuses on mental health to better equip all youth, especially vulnerable youth, to succeed,” said Burton. “Frank and I look forward to the success of BridgeUp at Menninger, which will be evident by the improved health and readiness of youth served in Houston. We are confident that Menninger’s efforts will result in evidenced-based programs that can be integrated into existing BridgeUp models and future initiatives in other cities.”
All seven BridgeUp at Menninger grants announced are Magic Grants because they rely on collaboration and innovation to implement social and emotional learning components into after-school initiatives as well as metrics to measure the mental health and well-being of their students. Magic Grants were awarded to Kashmere Community, Connect to Character After-School and Summer Program, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, Breakthrough Houston, Pasadena ISD, Project GRAD and Workshop Houston.
BridgeUp at Menninger after-school programs will launch in tandem with the 2016-17 school year, impacting 1,400 students at 28 locations throughout various Greater Houston communities, including Kashmere Gardens, Near Northside, Pasadena, Sharpstown, Spring Branch and Third Ward. Grant recipients will be evaluated annually on the basis of process measures, academic outcomes of participating students and overall social and emotional well-being of those students.
To steer the development of BridgeUp and ensure its continued success, Menninger formed an advisory committee comprised of 40 members who represent a cross section of the most important aspects of BridgeUp: mental health, education and community collaboration. The advisory committee was integral in developing the request for proposal for grant applications, and nine members of the advisory committee also served on the grant review team.
Grantees were selected based on adaptation of after-school approaches; focus on adolescents living in poverty; formation of long-term cohorts to build peer interaction and support; use of mentors; emphasis on social and emotional learning; focus on tracking and measurement to evaluate progress over time; and reliance on partnerships across organizations.