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CFO Grant Program Addresses Health Issues In Rural Ozarks

Community Foundation of the Ozarks
ROHI is Co-Funded By The Community Foundation Of The Ozarks and The Missouri Foundation For Health

"In a rural community, the hospital takes on a bigger role, than it does, I think, in larger cities. The hospital is kind of all encompassing, and is there to provide whatever help you need."

The Community Foundation of the Ozarks has teamed-up with the Missouri Foundation For Health, to provide funding for the Rural Ozarks Health Initiative.  ROHI is a 3 year grant program to address physical and mental health issues, including access to services, in rural regions and communities served by CFO Rural Affiliate Foundations.  In Phase I of ROHI, 3 projects have already been awarded $150,000 each, over the next 3 years, and with Phase II now underway, the CFO is accepting grant applications from all its rural affiliate foundations, to award 30 of them, $10,000 each, over 3 years. 

"We know those rural communities have a lot of needs, under a lot of different subject areas." Says CFO Vice President of Programs, Bridget Dierks.  "One thing that stands out, which lets us know this is a good project, is that need for Health Dollars.  Dollars to address major health issues in the community.  Whether that be opioid abuse or general health of a community.  Mental health is a major factor in rural communities, and access to mental health services, is something communities struggle with. So to be able to reduce some of that burden within our grant making program, to provide specific dollars for health issues, will have a positive impact on our communities."

Credit Mike Smith / KSMU-FM
In The KSMU Studio With Bridget Dierks and Sarah Morrow

"We like to think of ourselves as partners, with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks." Says Missouri Foundation For Health Community Liaison, Sarah Morrow.  "Our (MFH) mission, is to Improve The Health And Well Being Of Individuals and Communities Most In Need, and we do grant-making in rural areas, but we have a difficult time knowing those communities intimately, and the CFO with their affiliates do know those communities, and so partnering with their expertise and knowledge of the areas, benefits both foundations and helps us build some relationships and learn things about local communities we would not have known otherwise."

CFO Affiliate Foundations in Carthage, Monett and Cassville, working with local partners including Mercy Hospitals, The Clark Community Mental Health Center, and Cox Hospitals, are making a difference in their communities, as recipients of ROHI's Phase I Health Dollars.

"$50,000 each year, for 3 years, totaling $150,000 per community" Says CFO's Bridget Dierks. "Cassville's effort partners Cassville, Mt. View and Aurora to work on mental health access via tele-health. We also funded a program in Carthage to improve health access to people there.  More walkability in the community; better access to healthy food options at restaurants and farmers markets; Better access to healthy food in Carthage Schools. Monett is also addressing mental health challenges, which is a real indicator of whats going on in rural communities that we've funded."

"Not many people hear about Monett."  Says Shawn Hayden, who has a unique perspective on the Rural Ozarks Health Initiative. Hayden is an employee of Cox Hospitals, and a Board Member of the Monett Area Community Foundation, and actually wrote Monett's  ROHI Phase I grant application: "We are specifically 

Credit Cox Hospitals
Monett Area Community Foundation Board Member and Cox Hospital Employee Shawn Hayden

focusing in on the Emergency Department of Cox Monett, with the hope of reducing revisits by people who are using the Emergency Department as a primary care provider.  In a rural community, the hospital takes on a bigger role, than it does, I think, in larger cities. The hospital is kind of all encompassing, and is there to provide whatever help you need. With our E.R.E., the Emergency room Enhancement Program, we have some renovations planned and will provide additional training for our front-line ED staff to recognize and identity clients to refer to the ERE.  You know, substance use identification, mental health identification, or even what questions to ask, to see if someone requires basic need support.  Identifying transportation issues, or if they're  homeless. Whatever we can do to help the person, because if we can fill the void and connect them with additional community recourses that can bring them to a better place, then we are doing our job. And that's why I think ROHI will have a huge impact on our community" 

As for Phase II of The Rural Ozarks Health Initiative, CFO's Bridget Dierks says the Foundation is looking for grant applications from its rural affiliate foundations which already have strong grant-making systems in place. "They already know how to run an application process, they are well connected with the non-profits and schools in their communities. In March,we will select 10 grant recipients for $10,000 each, they will have the end of the calendar year to make those health specific grants."

Credit Mike Smith / KSMU-FM
CFO's VP For Programs Bridget Dierks, With Missouri Foundation For Health Community Liaison, Sarah Morrow

Echoing remarks by CFO President Brian Fogle, Bridget Dierks says the CFO is grateful the Missouri Foundation For Health is partnering with them to fund ROHI.  She also adds her appreciation for the work of CFO rural affiliate foundations:  "That's really at the core of why ROHI is so important and will be successful.  We've built a partnership here that will be long lasting, meaningful, very important, and will allow rural communities to access something they otherwise have been unable or daunted by in the past."

CFO Rural Affiliate Foundations are invited to apply for ROHI Phase II funding, at and applications are due by 11:59 pm, Monday March 5th.   

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