Hartford Foundation’s Record-Breaking Grantmaking Topped $38 Million in 2018

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the community foundation for 29 communities in Greater Hartford, awarded more than $38 million in grants to the region’s nonprofit agencies and educational institutions in 2018. “At a time when our state and many of our communities face significant fiscal challenges, the Hartford Foundation was able to award a record breaking number of grants this past year,” said Hartford Foundation president Jay Williams. “We continue to look for ways to work together with our donors, nonprofits, and community partners to ensure Greater Hartford residents have access to opportunities that enrich their lives and secure a better future for our region.”

According to the latest estimated, unaudited numbers, the Foundation ended 2018 with total assets of $933 million in 1,230 funds. The Foundation received gifts totaling $13.1 million and opened 22 new funds.

“Greater Hartford is fortunate to have so many generous residents who truly want to make a lasting difference in their community,” Williams said. “The historic amount of resources we have been able to provide to hardworking and dedicated nonprofit organizations is a testament to our donors’ level of commitment to the region and the work the Hartford Foundation supports.”

Officials noted that the Foundation’s 2018 grantmaking - with a total of 2,708 individual grants made - was based on the recognition that "a vibrant and strong Greater Hartford region requires that all residents, especially those with the greatest need, have equitable access to opportunities to achieve and flourish." The largest percentage of grants were in education (33%), followed by family & social services (25%), communication and economic development (13%), and arts & culture (11%).

Among the grants, in each program area:

Education

  • Hartford Student Internship Program - The Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant to Capital Workforce Partners to provide 150 Hartford rising high school juniors and seniors with internships and other work-based learning opportunities. The Foundation’s support extends opportunities to students with a variety of backgrounds, including students who have become disconnected from school.
  • Summer Learning Programs - In an effort to enhance summer learning and youth development, the Foundation provided $805,300 to support 34 campership, nine tutorial, nine Counselor-in-Training and five enrichment summer programs. Foundation funding supported free and reduced-cost access to summer programming, as well as targeted support for literacy, parent engagement and other enhancements for nearly 11,000 youth from across the region.
  • Early Development Instrument - The Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to East Hartford Public Schools to support projects based upon the findings of the 2018 Early Development Instrument (EDI), a population-based measurement tool that assessed the school readiness of East Hartford kindergarten students. Foundation funds will pay for the Transition to Kindergarten Campaign; an EDI Olympics for 8 elementary schools; capacity building of community and home day care providers; and project materials.

Family and Social Services

  • Community Safety Coalition - With a $160,000 grant from the Foundation, five local nonprofit agencies have created the Hartford Community Safety Coalition (CSC) as an organic response to the rising incidence of violent crime in Hartford. The coalition’s mission is to create healthy communities by collaborating on strategies to reduce urban violence and trauma in Hartford.
  • Center for Children’s Advocacy -  With the support of a three-year $260,000 grant, the Center for Children’s Advocacy is expanding its services to adolescents and young adults from Greater Hartford transitioning out of justice-system confinement or Department of Children and Families involvement. Foundation funds support a portion of the salaries for two project attorneys and a case manager. A portion of the grant can be used to support the Center’s administrative advocacy work with state agencies including the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Education and the justice system.

Community and Economic Development

  • Get Out the Vote - This past August, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving awarded thirteen grants totaling $116,565 to area nonprofits dedicated to informing and engaging underrepresented voters in Greater Hartford. This nonpartisan effort focused primarily on young adults, Latinos and Black residents and people living in high poverty neighborhoods. Over a three-month period, these organizations reached out to several thousand Greater Hartford residents, registering over 1,000 new voters and receiving 1,500 pledges to participate in the November 6 elections.
  • LISC Hartford - The Building for Health Project is focused on coordinating housing quality improvements (including lead remediation, energy efficiency, asthma triggers and others), providing technical assistance and grants to affordable housing builders/managers to help implement healthy practices in the buildings they manage. The Foundation provided a three-year, $313,000 grant to support Building for Health, which is a collaborative effort that came out of one of the Foundation’s 2017 innovation planning grants. The project involves a partnership between utilities, hospitals, community development corporations and nonprofit lenders to build the connections between health and housing.

Arts and Culture

  • TheaterWorks - TheaterWorks strives to bring in a more diverse audience, one that is more representative of the community at large and more inclusive of Hartford residents. TheaterWorks commissioned a market study in 2017 that found gaps in the arts programming available in the Hartford area, specifically in the areas of music, dance, film and spoken word. To support its ongoing strategic planning process, TheaterWorks was awarded a planning grant to develop, test and evaluate new pilot programs that would help diversify its audience while also filling these gaps.
  • Hartford Stage Company - The Hartford Stage Company’s Breakdancing Shakespeare program provides students between the ages of 14 and 18 with the opportunity to be part of a unique program that combines the text of a classic Shakespearean play with the language of hip-hop, rap and breakdancing. With the support of a $15,000 grant from the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation, students participated in a six-week rehearsal process, taking master classes with guest artists, developing skills related to the program’s first-ever production of Twelfth Night.
  • Connecticut Historical Society - The Cheney Family Fund at the Hartford Foundation provided a $3,000 grant to the Connecticut Historical Society to support “Facing War: Connecticut in World War I.” The exhibit displays hundreds of photographs from 1917-1919, many displayed for the first time and many in life-size, as well as letters, diaries, propaganda posters, clothing, uniforms and equipment. The exhibit focuses on the personal stories of 12 Connecticut individuals, including George W. Cheney, who served on the front lines in France for nine months.

Health

  • Newton C. and Elsie B. Brainard Fund - For more than 50 years, families have been able to avoid financial ruin caused by medical bills with support from the Newton C. and Elsie B. Brainard Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The Brainard Fund benefits residents of Greater Hartford who have assets to preserve, but who face medical and health care costs that would otherwise have devastating financial consequences.  In 2018, 21 families’ medical cases were supported by grants totaling nearly $224,328.
  • Hockanum Valley Community Council - In response to a growing demand for substance abuse treatment, the Foundation awarded a three-year, $127,752 grant to the Hockanum Valley Community Council (HVCC).  HVCC established a Medication Assisted Treatment program (MAT) in 2013 for residents of Vernon and nearby towns with opioid addiction. As one of the few providers offering this service regardless of a patients’ ability to pay, HVCC’s program has reached full capacity, growing from 32 to 52 clients in the past year alone. This grant is being used to support the hiring of an advanced practice clinician, which will allow HVCC to increase the number of clients served while increasing the quality of care and improving patient outcomes.

Nonprofit Capacity Building

  • The Nonprofit Support Program (NSP) - The Foundation’s Nonprofit Support Program helps strengthen nonprofit organizations in our region by providing tools and knowledge for agencies to build strong boards, plan for their futures, evaluate programs, improve finances and update technology. In 2018, 49 staff and board teams participated in the Social Enterprise Accelerator, 15 agency teams took part in the Fundraising Training Program, 13 teams completed the Financial Management Training Program, 23 nonprofit teams received strategic technology training, 17 agency teams completed the Building Evaluation Capacity Program, and 39 executive directors and staff leaders participated in leadership development programs. In addition, 73 grants totaling $2 million were awarded to support technical assistance (such as strategic planning and board development), strategic technology, financial management, and evaluation within our local nonprofits.  Eight nonprofits successfully transitioned to new leaders with support from the Executive Transition Program.  In total, NSP provided services to over 1,000 individuals representing over 450 nonprofits during the year.
  • Small Agency Grant Program - In 2018, the Foundation expanded grants to small and minority-led organizations through its Small Agency Grant Program. Eleven organizations successfully completed the Building on Success program that helps smaller nonprofit organizations grow to their next strategic level. Through the Small Agency Community Partners component, the Foundation has worked with 14 other nonprofit support organizations to increase the number and access to resources available to help strengthen small organizations.  Highlights include a new “Board Member Bootcamp” with Leadership Greater Hartford and Hartford Public Library, and a “QuickBooks Basics for Nonprofits” with the Small Business Administration and Hartford Public Library. 

Since its founding in 1925, the Foundation has awarded more than $758 million in grants.

Connecticut Innovations Among Nation's Top Venture Capital Firms in Healthcare in 2018

Connecticut Innovations (CI) has landed on Forbes magazine’s list of the ten top venture capital firms making the most investments in healthcare start-ups during 2018.  With 20 deals done during the year, CI ranked at number seven. CI is Connecticut’s strategic venture capital arm and the state’s leading source of financing and ongoing support for innovative, growing companies. The two largest CI deals were with locally headquartered Arvinas, a $56 million investment, and Rallybio, a $37 million investment. 

Leading the way among venture capital firms in the U.S. were California-headquartered Alexandria Venture Investments (38 deals), Maryland-based New Enterprise Associates (28), Keiretsu Forum of California (27), OrbiMed, headquartered in New York (24), and ARCH Venture Partners (22) of Illinois.  Just ahead of CI was SV Health Investors, with 21 deals.  The venture capital firm is based in Massachusetts.

Nationally, startups in the sector have raised more money in 2018 than any previous year in the past decade.

Rallybio, based in Farmington at the University of Connecticut’s Technology Incubation Program, was co-founded in January 2018 by Martin Mackay, PhD, Stephen Uden MD, and Jeffrey Fryer, CPA, recognized leaders from the biopharma industry.  The company’s focus: identifying and accelerating the development of transformative breakthrough therapies for patients with severe and rare disorders.  They aim to develop innovative drug candidates against mechanisms that have strong biological rationales.  Rallybio’s focus is on antibodies, small molecules and engineered proteins.

Last month, the company was named by FierceBiotech as one of 2018’s Fierce 15 biotechnology companies, designating it as one of the most promising private biotechnology companies in the industry.

Arvinas, headquartered in New Haven, is a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the lives of patients suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases through the discovery, development, and commercialization of therapies to degrade disease-causing proteins.

Building on groundbreaking research at Yale University by Craig Crews, Ph.D., Arvinas’ Founder and Chief Scientific Advisor, Arvinas has developed a broad technology platform “focused on high-value targets, with the potential to deliver safer, more potent treatment than small molecule inhibitors, and to address up to 80% of proteins that evade inhibition and are currently undruggable.”  Among the company’s Board members is Ted Kennedy, Jr., a health care policy and disability activist, regulatory attorney, and former Connecticut state senator.

Connecticut Innovations is located in Rocky Hill.

Libraries Join Response to Connecticut’s Opioid Crisis; Stand Ready to Save Lives

The collective response to America’s opioid crisis has opened a new front in Connecticut in an unlikely location – the public library.  Driven by a desire to be prepared to save a life, a growing number of libraries – in communities large and small – now have the opioid reversal drug naloxone on hand, with librarians trained in how to use it. Naloxone is a medication that can reverse and block the effects of other opioids.  It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications.

The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a nationwide public health advisory, to “urge more Americans to carry a potentially lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.” That office reports that an estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. struggle with an opioid use disorder.

For Marlborough’s Richmond Memorial Library, the decision to train three staff members to administer the medication was wholly consistent with what a library is all about, as director Nancy Wood explains.

“I liken it to the defibrillator that we brought in to the library two years ago.  If you are saving a life for one reason, you can save a life for another.  And it is a cultural thing for librarians to want to help people.  It is what we do.”

As a significant public place in Marlborough, open more hours than just about any other building in town, Wood says that although “hopefully we never have to use it,” she and her staff felt it was important to be trained and ready.  The AHM Youth & Family Services organization provided the training last March.

Rates of opioid overdose deaths are rapidly increasing nationwide and in Connecticut.  Since 2010, the number of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. has doubled from more than 21,000 to more than 42,000 in 2016. Overdose deaths in Connecticut have nearly tripled in a six-year period, from 357 in 2012 to 1,038 in 2017. Of those 1,038 deaths, 677 involved fentanyl — a synthetic opioid drug 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin — either by itself or with at least one other drug, according to published reports.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between June 2017 and June 2018, there were 1,056 reported cases of drug overdose deaths, based on provisional data, in Connecticut.  An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded that the opioid overdose death rate in Connecticut was the 10th highest in the nation, and the percentage increase between 2016 and 2017 was 17th highest in the U.S., exceeding the national average.

Hartford recently announced a $10,000 grant from CIGNA Foundation that will train librarians in the city and cover the purchase of naloxone for city libraries.

“As a public institution, we see that our entire community is impacted by the opioid crisis; it was clear that a rapid and robust response to the problems caused by the opioid drug crisis was imperative,” said library CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey as the grant was announced earlier this month.  Library officials also plan to provide information about opioid abuse awareness and host education and information forums.

When the town of Canton made training available for department heads last year, library director Sarah McCusker took the one-day session.  Like Wood, she views it as an extension of first aid training that can help a patron in distress.

“It’s the same as knowing CPR or having an AED on-site.  We call 911 immediately, but we see everything, and we’d like to be prepared,” McCusker explained.  She also believes employees in public spaces should be “widely trained” to assist in emergency situations. And she anticipates that if her town government makes training in the use of naloxone available again this year, although it is not mandated, additional staff members will choose to attend.

The Connecticut Library Consortium indicates that while official figures are not available, reports of libraries having naloxone available, along with official policies governing its use and trained staff members, are increasing.  Hartford, Marlborough, Canton and Avon are among them.  Other libraries have librarians on staff who have sought and received individual training. For many libraries, it is a major health issue that their municipalities and local governing boards are reviewing, and one that impacts cities and small towns.

The naloxone brand NARCAN® Nasal Spray is a pre-filled, needle-free device that requires no assembly and is sprayed into one nostril while patients lay on their back. Those prepared to administer it have been trained on the signs of an opioid overdoes, and how to respond immediately as 911 is called for a local ambulance response.

“Public libraries are responsible for meeting the wide-ranging needs of their communities. Yes, libraries offer books and storytime programs and research help that goes beyond Google. But they are also the place to turn to find a job, become a citizen, discover a new app, find quality healthcare information, make art, or learn a new skill,” said Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium.  “Having library staff who are trained to administer NARCAN is another way that libraries are evolving with their communities and are ready to provide help whenever and however it is needed.”

 

 

 

Foundation Raises $1 Million in 2018 in Support of Next Generation of Mental Health Care Professionals

The Quell Foundation seeks to reduce number of suicides, overdoses, and incarcerations of people living with a mental illness.  The Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization, which spent some time in Connecticut in 2018, continues to impact lives across the country, raising over one million dollars last year toward their mission to remove the stigma of mental health and to fund the next generation of mental health care professionals. The Foundation came to the Wadsworth Atheneum in May to show a new documentary, Lift the Mask, which featured the first-person stories of individuals impacted by suicide.  Among those featured in the film was a Vice President at Aetna and a recent college graduate from Middletown. It was the first time the documentary was shown outside a college campus.  It was also shown at the University of Connecticut in September.

Following the film's showing in Hartford, a panel discussion was held before a packed auditorium, featuring both the Aetna executive and the former Middletown resident and her parents, who movingly told the story of their brother/son’s suicide.

“The generous support of our sponsors and individual donors is overwhelming,” said The Quell Foundation CEO, Kevin Lynch. “This outstanding growth comes to us at a pivotal time for mental health in America and our journey as an organization. We are deeply grateful and look forward to continuing our work in the years to come.”  Lynch’s wife, Karen, is Executive Vice President of CVS Health and was recently named President of the Aetna Business Unit following the company’s merger.

The Foundation awards scholarships to students living with the challenges that come with having a mental health diagnosis, students who have endured the loss of a parent or sibling to suicide, and to students pursuing a career in the mental health field.  Lynch and his team have distributed over $835,000 to young adults representing forty states and 118 colleges across the country since the Foundation’s establishment in 2015.

“The scholarship program is one of the most important tools we have in normalizing the conversation around mental health while also addressing the dearth of mental health providers,” said Lynch. “We are developing a pipeline of professionals to offset the aging population and high-demand of mental health care providers we have in this country.”

The Quell Foundation works to reduce the number of suicides, overdoses, and incarcerations of people with mental illness by encouraging people to share their story, increasing access to mental health services, and supporting first responders in recognizing the mental health warning signs among their own.

“The Quell Foundation’s Bridge the Gap award to students pursuing degrees in the mental health care field are most strongly facilitated through The Quell Foundation’s long-term partnerships,” said Renee Wilk, Executive Director of The Quell Foundation. “We invest in their students and the unique, mental health, degree-awarding programs offered at these institutions to promote and sustain workforce development in this critical space.”

The Quell Foundation is currently accepting applications for the 2019-2020 scholarship cycle.

How Does Your Health Insurance Plan Stack Up? There’s A Resource for That

Connecticut’s Insurance Department has issued its 2018 Consumer Report Card on Health Plans in Connecticut, providing consumers with an updated snapshot of 12 health carriers in the Connecticut marketplace.  The goal:  to help consumers make informed choices when choosing a health plan. “The Department’s annual Report Card is designed to deliver side-by-side comparisons of health carriers across a variety of quality measures, including coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment,” Commissioner Katharine L. Wade said recently. The analysis includes health claims, mental healthcare, pregnancy coverage and preventative care, and reviews the reasons cited in instances of denial of coverage. 

Among the trends identified in the latest annual report care are:

  • Total enrollment over 2.2 million, a slight increase from 2016.
  • 5 percent of those covered (1.85 million people) get their insurance from large group plans
  • 131,000 people have individual plans (5.9 percent)
  • 235,000 people are covered under small group plans (10.6 percent)

The 72-page data-filled report card also notes that there was an increase in the number of primary care providers, specialists and pharmacies participating in health plan networks. There was a decline in the number of participating hospitals, officials indicated, but attributed it “primarily due to consolidations in the industry and not facilities closing.”

Customers surveyed said they were always or usually able to see a specialist or get routine care as soon as they wanted.  The enrollment breakdown in Connecticut is lopsided.  Among HMO's, Anthem has 81% of the market, ConnectiCare 17%, Oxford 2%.  Among indemnity enrollments, Anthem has 42%, followed by Aetna's 20%, CIGNA's 19%, United's 7% and ConnectiCare's 5%.

The report card, issued this fall,  includes “terms” that consumers should know, a series of frequently asked questions and answers, and results of a member satisfaction survey for HMO’s Anthem, ConnectiCare, Harvard Pilgrim and Oxford Health.  Indemnity insurers Aetna Life, Anthem, CIGNA, ConnectiCare, Harvard Pilgrim, United Health and Oxford Health also had members surveyed on a range of “satisfaction” queries.

This report includes three years of data, where available, to be informative for consumers, officials said.  The data utilized was through 2017.

The mission of the Connecticut Insurance Department is to protect consumers through regulation of the industry, outreach, education and advocacy. The Department recovers an average of $4 million yearly on behalf of consumers, according to officials, and regulates the industry by ensuring carriers adhere to state insurance laws and regulations and are financially solvent to pay claims.

Each year, the Department returns an average of $100 million a year to the state General Fund in license fees, premium taxes, fines and other revenue sources to support various state programs, including childhood immunization. The Department’s annual budget is funded through assessments from the insurance industry.

Individuals with questions or seeking further information may contact the Department at  insurance@ct.gov or 860-297-3900.

CT Attorney General Initiates Lawsuit Against Stamford's Purdue Pharma for Role in National Opioid Crisis

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has initiated a lawsuit against Stamford-based Purdue Pharma and several current and former members of Purdue's management and board of directors alleging that they designed, financed and waged a pervasive and aggressive campaign to mislead doctors and patients, claiming that prescription opioid medications manufactured and marketed by the company were safe and effective and strategically downplaying risks of addiction that they knew were inherent in their opioid products. The state alleges that Purdue "peddled a series of falsehoods" to push patients toward its opioids, reaping massive profits from sales while opioid addiction skyrocketed to the crisis level that is currently impacting Connecticut and states across the country.

"For a number of months, Connecticut and our multistate partners have been engaged in intensive negotiations with opioid manufacturers and distributors in the hope of resolving potential legal claims in a way that would avoid protracted litigation and would bring opioid treatment resources to those who are desperately in need," said Attorney General Jepsen.  Jepsen, who leaves office next month, currently serves as  part of the leadership of a multistate coalition of attorneys general who are investigating opioid manufacturers and distributors. "I expect those negotiations to continue, and I remain hopeful they will bring a resolution that helps to address this ongoing crisis."

In Connecticut, 1,038 people died of accidental drug overdoses in 2017, the vast majority from opioid-related overdoses. The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has projected that 1,030 more people will die of overdoses in 2018. From 2013 to 2016, Connecticut experienced a fourfold increase in deaths from prescription opioid overdoses, and the estimated economic cost of the opioid epidemic in Connecticut in 2016 was $10.27 billion.  Nationwide from 2002-2017 there was a 4.1-fold increase in the total number of deaths involving opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

The Attorney General said that Purdue Pharma “has not demonstrated to me that it is serious about addressing the states' very real allegations of misconduct and coming to a meaningful settlement. It is my hope that, in filing this lawsuit at this time, Connecticut can assist in the collective effort to hold this company and responsible individuals accountable.

Jepsen said the state alleges that “Purdue knowingly put its own exorbitant profits first when it purposefully and systematically misled doctors by not just downplaying the terrible risks of addiction, but by forcefully asserting that opioid products were safe, that the risk of addiction was low, and that patients experiencing symptoms of addiction should actually be prescribed higher and greater doses of Purdue's opioid drugs. We allege that this behavior was endorsed and promoted by the highest leadership of the company and that it was in violation of Connecticut law."

The state alleges that Purdue misinformed patients and doctors to get more and more people taking its premier opioid drug, OxyContin, and its two other opioid medications, Hysingla and Butrans.

The lawsuit will be filed in Superior Court in Hartford. It alleges four counts of violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and seeks damages, civil penalties, forfeiture of ill-gotten profits and restitution as well as permanent injunctive and other relief.  The suit indicates that Purdue allegedly:

  • led patients and doctors to believe that opioids were safe to treat even minor pain, and that patients could and should take higher and more dangerous doses.
  • sent sales representatives to doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies and hospitals in Connecticut to make deceptive sales pitches about opioid drugs;
  • rewarded high-prescribing doctors with attention, meals, gifts and money; and
  • awarded prizes and bonuses to sales representatives who generated the most opioid prescriptions.

The company did not tell doctors that higher doses of opioids carried heightened risk of addiction, overdose and death, the state alleges, and the company funded and distributed publications that misrepresented the addictive nature of prescription opioids and made claims that were not supported by scientific evidence.

The state further alleges that Purdue promoted the idea of "pseudoaddiction," suggesting that patients who appeared to be addicted were instead receiving inadequate doses and needed more prescription opioid drugs.

In addition to the company, the state's lawsuit names current and former board members as defendants, alleging that they tracked sales representatives and oversaw the tactics used to push opioid drugs. The individual defendants include: Richard Sackler, Jonathan Sackler, Mortimer D.A. Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Beverly Sackler, David Sackler, Theresa Sackler, Cecil Pickett, Paulo Costa, Ralph Snyderman, Frank Peter Boer and Judy Lewent. The lawsuit also names past CEOs John Stewart and Mark Timney as defendants.