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Highmark supporting health improvements in W.Va.

PARKERSBURG — Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield West Virginia will be providing charitable funds to help improve the health of the people in West Virginia.

An announcement was made Tuesday by Gov. Jim Justice, Del. Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, Highmark President Jim Fawcett and other Highmark officials regarding the formation of the Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health with an $18 million investment from the company.

“This is such an exciting announcement because the creation of this fund has the opportunity to genuinely improve the lives of so many West Virginians,” Justice said. “The best part about this fund is that it’s going to enable us to continue improving the health and wellness of West Virginians for years and years to come.”

The newly formed fund is an extension of the Highmark Foundation, supporting its mission to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in West Virginia, Highmark officials said.

Fawcett said the company’s roots in West Virginia go back 80 years and they now have over 600 employees in the state who serve over 240,000 members.

The new Highmark West Virginia Charitable Fund for Health will be administered by the Highmark Foundation over the next 10 years “to benefit all West Virginians,” Fawcett said.

“The mission is simple, to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for all West Virginians in all 55 counties,” he said. “We are extremely proud to support organizations who work collaboratively to address barriers to health, ultimately enhancing the overall health of our region.”

The Highmark WV Charitable Fund will award major grants to organizations and initiatives throughout the region which target and improve health outcomes in priority health areas, including community health; family health; access to care; service delivery systems; chronic disease; and oral health, Highmark officials said. It strives to support programs that impact multiple counties and works collaboratively to leverage additional funding to achieve replicable models, they added.

Boggs, a Highmark board member since 2014, said he was proud of the investment Highmark is making.

“I am very excited about the projects and possibilities this investment fund will support,” he said. “The health and well-being of every West Virginian is near and dear to all of us and something we all want to strive for.”

The funding for projects aimed at improving health and well-being is sometimes challenging, but those funds are “fuel” needed by clinics, nonprofits and others to do the programming they do, he said.

Highmark Foundation President Yvonne Cook said the fund is another way to fund needed projects.

The Foundation is a 501c3 private charitable organization dedicated to improving the health, well-being and quality of life for people who live in the communities served by Highmark. The Foundation has addressed a number of health issues within the region through around $2 million in grants to a number of groups, including schools and others.

“The fund is a really exciting step for the Foundation as we strive to bring long-term systemic change to make a bigger impact,” Young said.

Cathy McAlister, the new fund’s executive fund director, said the fund will mean a lot to West Virginians. Grants will be awarded in up to $50,000 allotments per project to nonprofit organizations who are approved.

“We are looking at supporting initiatives that improve access to care, that will improve and further promote health education, literacy and will address service delivery systems,” McAlister said. “It is through these grants that I know we are going to make a difference, a great impact in West Virginia in all 55 counties.

“That is what we are going to do.”

For more information on the fund, people can go to www.highmarkfoundation.org.

(Dunlap can be contacted at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com)

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