Vitalyst Health Foundation, in partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, has awarded Innovation Grants totaling $624,703 to five Arizona nonprofits. These grants will fund projects that have a direct impact on building healthy communities around the state.

Vitalysts Innovation Grants are awarded each year to support projects that use breakthrough approaches to address community issues, said Suzanne Pfister, president and CEO of Vitalyst Health Foundation. As a result of this funding, at-risk Chandler residents will be served by emergency personnel trained in handling mental health issues. Vulnerable women and children in Arizona will receive critical legal services. Heat-related illnesses and death will be reduced in the long run, thanks to efforts that will address extreme heat conditions in our urban areas. A voluntary certification program will be developed to recognized the vital services of community health workers. And the South Tucson community will work together to create a vibrant bicycle boulevard.

2017 Innovation Grants were awarded to the following Arizona nonprofits:

Arizona Legal Women and Youth Services (ALWAYS) received a $119,200 grant to drive policy changes that will help clear the path to a productive future for youth who become involved in the juvenile justice system. In Arizona, unlike most states, juvenile records are open to the public, not confidential. The result? Mistakes made as a youth remain on an individuals record into adulthood, impacting their ability to get a job and housing. ALWAYS is also gathering data and stories on the correlation between the ability to pay and juvenile court-ordered fees and fines. The overarching goal is to innovate and bring forward best practices that effectively prioritize public safety while also creating greater economic and educational opportunity.

Partners: The University of Arizonas Southwest Institute for Research on Women, Childrens Action Alliance, and The University of Arizona.

Chandler Fire, Health & Medical Department received a $125,000 Innovation Grant to develop and pilot behavioral health crisis support training for firefighters who are often the first to provide services to the public who may be suffering from a behavioral health emergency. Currently, training of this type is extremely limited for the fire service. The training curriculum will be written in conjunction with the Arizona State University Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy with the goal of focusing on de-escalation and crisis intervention skills. Ultimately, this first-of-its-kind training will prepare firefighters to deliver even better and more appropriate care for patients suffering from behavioral health emergencies.

Partners: Arizona State University, National Alliance of Mental Illness Arizona, Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care (MMIC), Mesa Fire & Medical, Community Bridges, and Crisis Response Network.

Co-Funders: Arizona Community Foundation will co-fund $50,000. MMIC and Mercy Care Plan will provide in-kind training technical assistance, production of course materials and connections to local community providers valued up to $75,000.

Nature Conservancy received a grant for $124,534 to support the Natures Cooling Systems project, which will address extreme heat in urban communities. The Nature Conservancy, an organization that typically has worked in non-urban settings, established its Cities Program just a few years ago. Phoenix is one of 20 cities where the Conservancy is working to demonstrate the role that nature plays in addressing the key challenges facing nature and people in urban settings. Over the next two years in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, the Nature Conservancy will work with partners to integrate environmental planning efforts into county health policy around heat mitigation planning. Specifically, the Conservancy and partners will identify communities suffering from extreme heat, and work with urban planners and neighborhoods to propose and scale diverse solutions – including landscape changes, green spaces, shade awnings, tree planting and stormwater management practices to reduce heat illnesses.

Partners: Central Arizona Conservation Alliance, Arizona State University Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (ASU URExSRN), and Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

Arizona Community Health Workers Association (AzCHOW) received a $122,999 grant to support and manage the development of a voluntary certification program for Arizonas community health workers (CHWs). Voluntary certification of CHWs will recognize the positive impact of this workforce on the health of Arizonans, from providing health education and supporting pre-natal care to helping community members manage their asthma and diabetes.

Partners: University of Arizona College of Public Health and Arizona Department of Health Services.

Co-Funder: Arizona Community Foundation will co-fund $50,000.

Living Streets Alliance received a $124,970 Innovation Grant for Reclaim Las Calles, a pilot project that will facilitate innovative community-led engagement with South Tucson residents to inform and guide the proposed 8th Ave Bicycle Blvd corridor. This project will involve leadership training for a group of neighborhood youth and adults, who will work together to plan and implement community block parties and street painting events that will organically strengthen neighborhoods by creating connections and relationships in the South Tucson community.

Partners: John Valenzuela Youth Center, Ochoa Community Magnet School, House of Neighborly Services, City of Tucson, Be Free Pima (a youth-led initiative of Community Prevention Coalition of Pima County), Bicycle Inter-Community Arts & Salvage, City of South Tucson.

Co-Funder: Community Foundation for Southern Arizona will co-fund $8,000.