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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

A foundation is focusing on alleviating the effects of COVID-19 in Natrona County with funding

Natrona Collective Health Trust

TheNatrona Collective Health Trust (NCHT), a private health foundation, has given a $350,000 grant to the Wyoming Community Foundation to help offset the impacts of COVID-19 in Natrona County. In addition, NCHT has been awarding funding to nonprofits in the county. The priorities for these grants are to help mitigate and prevent adverse childhood experiences, create positive childhood experiences, help with early childhood development, and provide mental and behavioral health services.

"Our board last year just felt very strongly as we were in the throes of the pandemic of kind of, ‘What is the next step and where do we go from here?'" said Meredith Benton, CEO of NCHT. “And then we partnered with the community foundation, [and] was able to do a whole series of focus groups, interviews, surveys to find out what are the best approaches to help our recovery post pandemic. One of the main issues that really stood out was the need for additional support around suicide prevention."

Benton said that 2021 was one of the worst years for suicide in Natrona County, which is a reason they decided to have mental health and suicide prevention be one of the focus areas for the grants.

“One of the things they realized is having sustained consistent funding for those nonprofits already here in Wyoming doing work to prevent suicide was one of the things that was most needed,” Benton said. “They [the Wyoming Community Foundation] partnered with organizations in order to make that investment of $350,000, a multi-year investment. [The] $350,000 will be given out each year, a portion of it each year, over the next several years, so that these organizations can build their capacity as well as to increase their activity around approaches that are shown to help prevent suicide among our population.”

Interviews indicated that funding should also go to a support group for those with long COVID and providing resources for COVID-19 education and vaccine distribution efforts.

The Wyoming Community Foundation was the fiscal partner in the grant allocating process and is distributing the funds from the NCHT.

The NCHT was created when Wyoming Medical Center was sold to Banner Health at the end of 2020 and became an official foundation in January 2021. The $250 million that was generated from the sale went to create the endowment of the foundation. An initial $2 million grant was allocated to better the health of county residents earlier in the NCHT’s history.

Funds were also allocated toGrace for Two Brothers and VitalCog in addition toNatrona County Suicide Prevention.

If you or someone you know is considering or having suicidal thoughts, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also dial 988 24/7 or text “WYO” to 741741.Local mental health and substance abuse services are also offered in communities statewide.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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