Young Scholars Program Receives Health Equity Award


UTICA – Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has awarded Utica University LPP Young Investigators a $30,000 Health Equity Award to support the Young Investigators Mental Health Equity Program.

Young Scholars provides year-round academic support, guidance, and social and cultural enrichment to students from diverse backgrounds and communities of color in grades seven through 12, according to the announcement.

These students and their families are among populations facing global health disparities, particularly in the area of ​​mental health. This program provides mental health support from a licensed social worker to students and their families, the announcement added.

“Young Scholars LPP social workers are the first and most trusted mental health professionals available to our students and their parents,” said Pamela Matt, Executive Director of Young Scholars LPP.

“Stigma, cultural restrictions and other barriers often prevent students and parents from seeking mental health support. Providing immediate and free access to mental health professionals for every student upon entering the Young Scholars program helps break down these barriers,” Matt added.

The Young Scholars LPP (YSLPP) is a collaborative effort between the Utica City School District and the University of Utica, serving approximately 360 students from diverse backgrounds in grades seven through twelfth.

Students nominated for the Young Scholars Program are identified as having strong academic potential, but facing equally significant socio-economic or other challenges that may prevent them from realizing that potential.

YSLPP’s mission is to provide the necessary
support for these students to stay in school, earn a New York
State Regent’s Degree with Advanced Designation, College Degree, and Career Ready.

“The goal of the Mental Health Equity Program is to improve student outcomes by reducing anxiety, developing and practicing coping skills, and maintaining a connection with YSLPP social workers and other professionals,” says Matt. “Our social workers are in YSLPP classrooms every day having informal conversations with our students, so when students are facing a challenge or need mental health support, it’s not scary. nor stigmatized.”

In fall 2021, Excellus BCBS introduced a new Health Equity Award funding opportunity and invited organizations across its service area to apply. These awards help fund programs to improve health equity in communities of color. These segments of our community continue to suffer health care and social disadvantage due to racism and discrimination. Award categories included, but were not limited to, improving the physical and mental health of the community, reducing social disparities in health care, and ensuring access to health care services.

“We are proud to continue our commitment to health equity by supporting programs such as the Young Scholars LPP Mental Health Equity Program,” said Eve Van de Wal, Regional Chair of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Utica. “By removing critical barriers to mental health support, they are improving the health and quality of life for future generations in our communities. Our funding of this grassroots initiative helps support our mission to help our members live healthier, safer lives by improving access to care, advancing specific health outcomes, and improving health equity.

For more information on the health plan’s community investments and partnerships, visit:


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