A grant program was developed to address the disparity in health indicators between urban and rural areas in Missouri.

The Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Missouri Foundation for Health have awarded a $10,000 grant to Meramec Regional Community Foundation (MRCF) through the Rural Ozarks Health Initiative to address health issues in communities in the CFO’s rural service area. With the scarcity of grant resources available for rural issues in general, MRCF in turn awarded the funds to programs aiming to address substance abuse.

MRCF issued five grants to local programs attempting to combat substance abuse. Those projects included:

— Baseline for the Future Project - $1,500 to the Osage County Anti-Drug Community Action Team to offer the Baseline program to all 9th grade students in Osage county;

— Check Mate: Creating Healthy Empowered Choices in Kids, Managing Addiction through Education program - $2,500 to the Bourbon Elementary School to purchase curriculum through the Mendez Foundation and send three individuals from the school to receive formal training in the “Too Good for Drugs” program curriculum training;

— The Bedroom Revealing Drug Use Project - $2,500 to the Mid-Mo Addiction Awareness Group to renovate a camper into a bedroom that will show parents typical and non-typical hiding places for drugs and drug paraphernalia to be used as an awareness and education exhibit;

— Meramec Region Safe Rx Storage Project - $1,250 to the Meramec Community Enhancement Corporation (MCEC) for 96 lockable storage bags to seniors in the Meramec Region to reduce illicit acquisition and diversion of prescription opioids; and

— Overcoming Barriers in Substance Use Disorder Recovery - $2,500 to MCEC for a job fair focused specifically on those individuals with substance use disorders who are struggling to recover due to barriers in employment and other safety net resources.

Projects total $10,250. MRCF Board Member Gary Brown and wife, Alys, made a donation to cover the shortfall so the five grants could be fully funded.

This is the second year that CFO has awarded $10,000 grants to 10 affiliate foundations to support community health programs and grant making. The grants are part of the Rural Ozarks Health Initiative, a program to address health issues in communities or regions served by the CFO’s affiliates. Other recipients for 2019 include affiliate foundations serving Alton, the Aurora area, Dade County, Dent County, the Lake of the Ozarks area, the Marshfield area, Nixa, the Ozark Foothills region and West Plains.

“We know that our work as a change maker cannot have its greatest impact if we are not collaborating with other regional and local funders that undoubtedly know their communities best,” said Bob Hughes, MFH president and CEO. “Going into round two of this funding program with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks demonstrates the power of partnership and how working together moves us toward the best outcomes for community health improvements.”

A third grant round will be awarded in 2020, and when complete, $750,000 in grant funding will be distributed to more than 30 communities served by CFO affiliate foundations.

“The $10,000 grants reinforce our belief that local people know how to best address local needs,” said CFO President Brian Fogle. “While there are disparities between rural and urban community health, every small town or county has its own unique challenges. We trust these affiliate foundations will make the best decisions for their communities.”

MRCF is an outgrowth of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) and is an affiliate of Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) in Springfield. The regional affiliate was formed in 2010. Its 12-member board includes representation from each of the eight Meramec counties and from MRPC. Vicki Lange of Osage County serves as president of MRCF.

Currently, MRCF has 54 funds totaling over $2.9 million.

CFO is a public foundation serving the Missouri Ozarks. The foundation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in the region through resource development, community grant-making, collaborations and public leadership. Formed in 1973, CFO has since grown to include 49 affiliate community foundations and more than 3,100 charitable funds totaling approximately $283 million in assets, as of June 30, 2018.

MRPC, in addition to establishing the regional foundation and providing the initial investment to create a grant program, provides staff support to MRCF.

“This grant truly complements MRPC work with substance use disorder as we have two large grants to work on the issue,” said Bonnie Prigge, executive director of MRPC and a board member of MRCF. “The ROHI grant was able to fund smaller community-based activities that we were not able to do without larger grants.”