$25 Million Grant Launches Program for People in Need | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A $25 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) will help the STRONG Accountable Care Community (AC) launch a new program focused on providing resources to families in northeast Tennessee .

The STRONG Families Northeast Tennessee program will aim to help 1,000 low-income families achieve financial independence over a three-year period. This includes approximately 1,800 children.

The program will involve a peer support method that will provide families with a partner who lives in or near the communities of enrolled families.

“The Family Partnership System isn’t just a tool for families, it’s an interpersonal connection with someone who might have many of the same experiences,” said Mark Cruise, Director of STRONG ACC. “He’s someone who can not only help families, but also relate to them and the challenges they face.”

Resources provided will include access to behavioral health services, a regular cash allowance, and a network of family partners.

The service area extends to Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties, with resources made possible through partnerships between organizations such as Ballad Health, MAYA Consulting, ETSU Center for Rural Health Research, Frontier Health, Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency, Tennessee Voices, First Tennessee Development District, YWCA of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest from Virginia and more.

“The impact of this grant will be felt in every corner of Northeast Tennessee as it serves 1,000 families in need over the next 1,000 days,” said Joe Grandy, Chairman of the Board of First Tennessee Development District and Mayor of Washington County, Tennessee. “By partnering with the STRONG ACC, the FTDD fulfills its long-standing mission to increase economic opportunity through collaboration.

“I speak on behalf of each member of the First Tennessee Development District Board of Directors when we express our thanks to the State of Tennessee and the Department of Human Services for the trust they have placed in our region and for providing the resources needed to reduce poverty and overcome the barriers to opportunity.”

STRONG ACC marked one of seven applicants who received the grant through the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative, according to the TDHS in a May 5 statement.

“This grant provides us with an incredible opportunity to continue our efforts to improve the quality of life in our communities,” said Mark Stevans, director of special projects for the First Tennessee Development District. “STRONG Families Northeast Tennessee focuses on some specific challenges that many families in our area face, and addressing these issues brings us one step closer to lifting these families permanently out of poverty.”

Ryan H. Bowman