Grant opens new horizons for health care group

The Buyers Health Care Action Group (BHCAG) in Minneapolis had been working on coordinated health benefits for three years when word came that the Princeton, NJ-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was awarding a total of $3 million in grant money under its Workers’ Compensation Health Initiative. (The Foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health care, with assets of more than $5 billion and annual grants totaling more than $170 million.) But it was the $254,270 grant ultimately received from the Foundation that enabled the local coalition to bring its dream much closer to reality.

"It was the grant that facilitated our pilot program and added a whole lot more players — particularly the provider community," says Marilou Calasanz, manager of the workers’ compensation program at BHCAG member Norwest Corporation, and project coordinator for a two-year pilot program being undertaken by BHCAG and local labor, employers, health care systems, and state agencies.

How do organizations such as the Minnesota coalition learn about the availability of such grants? "The grants became public knowledge about a year ago through the [Minnesota] Department of Labor and Industry and other mechanisms the foundation uses, including a site on the World Wide Web," recalls Gary Westman, acting manager of the State Workers’ Compensation Program. One of those "mechanisms" was a brochure sent directly to Calasanz because she is a professional in the area of workers’ compensation.

The foundation also sponsored a meeting in Boston on its workers’ comp initiative, and several individuals who are now part of the coalition met there and began a dialogue.

From there, a group of individuals were chosen to write the grant proposal, and Michael McGrail, MD, MPH, of HealthSystem Minnesota, put it in its final form.

The application was submitted last April, and the notification was made in November. "It’s a rather long review process," says Westman. "Foundation representatives made a site visit in June and met with our partnership in a daylong meeting/interview process."

While the process may be daunting, the results clearly made the effort worthwhile. In fact, the partnership is planning to apply for an additional foundation grant in hopes of obtaining funds for the evaluation phase of the study.

[Editor’s note: A second round of grants and an additional $3 million will be made available under the Workers’ Compensation Health Initiative in 1997. For more information, contact: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, College Road, P.O. Box 2316, Princeton, NJ 08543-2316. Telephone: (609) 452-8701.]