2019 Community Report — Introduction (Section 1)

2019 Community Report

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Investing in the Health of Our Community. It's What We Live For.

In 2019, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island celebrated our 80th anniversary of being a local nonprofit health plan with the “80 Acts of Kindness” campaign. Employees illustrated our unwavering commitment to the Rhode Island community with acts of kindness that ranged from raising money for dozens of organizations to serving the local community through volunteerism.

Through our BlueAngel Community Investment Program, we continued to partner with results-oriented nonprofits whose work aligns with our vision—to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island. We also created the Rhode Island Life Index, a new data resource that measures Rhode Islanders’ perceptions of the social factors influencing health and well-being in the state.

The findings of the Life Index led us to expand our philanthropy in 2019 to address factors such as housing, safety, and transportation—and that focus will continue in the years ahead.

This report highlights some of our accomplishments from 2019.

Kim A. Keck headshot

Kim A. Keck
President and CEO, BCBSRI


Four years ago, I was drawn to lead this company in large part because employees are genuinely committed to service that benefits all Rhode Island communities. Community service is frankly in our DNA. It’s a commitment that defines and strengthens us as an organization. And in 2019, with wonderful community partners by our side, we celebrated 80 years by rededicating ourselves to building a healthier Rhode Island.
Kim A. Keck, President and CEO, BCBSRI
2019 Community Investment
by the Numbers



organizations supported through in-kind donations, volunteerism, or financial support




people impacted by funding or volunteerism




volunteer hours served




value of volunteer hours1




generated by employee fundraising




invested by the company through financial or in-kind donations

1Source: Independent Sector

2019 Community Report — Quality of Life (Section 2)

Quality of Life

To help improve the well-being of all Rhode Islanders, we expanded our giving to include social determinants such as safe and affordable housing.

Affordable housing illustration

We also focused on areas of great need in our community, including behavioral health and opioid use disorder.

Making decisions based on RI Life Index data


Our community investment work is rooted in the premise that health is so much more than what happens within the confines of the healthcare system. It’s founded in the deep understanding that the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age are factors that shape our lives and our health.

To investigate and establish benchmarks for community well-being in Rhode Island, we launched the RI Life Index, a new data resource based on survey data collected from more than 2,200 residents across the state and created in partnership with the Brown University School of Public Health.

Our goal was to identify Rhode Islanders’ barriers to health and well-being, diving deeper into the social determinants of health so we could target our investments to those needs. One of the major findings was that access to safe and affordable housing is a significant concern for many Rhode Islanders.

In response, we decided to expand our charitable giving to more explicitly address social determinants of health, and to prioritize investments on access to healthy and sustainable housing.

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ZIP Code is more important than genetic code.

ZIP Code is more important than genetic code.

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After reviewing the results of the RI Life Index, BCBSRI awarded $200,000 in grants to five organizations focused on increasing awareness about the need for—and improving access to—affordable housing in Rhode Island. These grants served as a bridge to our 2020 BlueAngel Community Health Grant program, which will focus on initiatives at the intersection of housing and health.

Housing-related grant recipients:


Housing Network RI

Housing Network of Rhode Island

The grant supports the Homes RI campaign, which spotlights the increased need for Rhode Island to invest in more affordable homes across the state.

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Crossroads RI

Crossroads Rhode Island

Crossroads strives to help homeless or at-risk individuals and families secure stable housing, and our funding supports their Health Navigator program.

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Housing Works RI

HousingWorks RI

Older adults will benefit from this funding, which supports expanded research and knowledge on senior-specific housing issues in Rhode Island.

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The Village Common RI

The Village Common

This organization received support to help older adults continue living and aging in good health in their homes.

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The Village Common RI

Family Service of Rhode Island

The grant supports Healthy Kids Rhode Island, which aims to address significant areas of need, such as housing, medical care, and behavioral healthcare.

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With a $5 million investment over five years, BCBSRI is the lead funder of the Behavioral Health Fund, which is administered by the Rhode Island Foundation.

The Fund supports strategies and service models that enhance primary prevention—such as promoting positive mental health and preventing behavioral health problems before they arise—as well as secondary prevention, which refers to treatment and disease management after diagnosis.

Six local entities received nearly $2.7 million in the first round of funding to invest in programs and services designed to benefit the behavioral health of Rhode Islanders, from newborn babies to adult caregivers in the child welfare system.



Icon $5 million

investment over five years



Expanding support of pediatric mental health

In Rhode Island, an estimated 36% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 who needed mental health treatment or counseling had a problem obtaining needed care.2 To help expand access to these important services, BCBSRI funded two programs in 2019:


Pediatric Psychiatry Resource Network at Bradley Hospital

We pledged more than $200,000 in support over five years to support this network, which increases access to mental healthcare for children and adolescents in primary care practices. During an office visit, a primary care provider can call the resource network to consult with the team and develop a treatment plan on the spot.

Partnership with James Andriotis, M.D., of Child and Family Psychiatry

Through this partnership, Child and Family Psychiatry can provide urgent appointments for pediatric members in need of an evaluation with a psychiatrist. There are designated appointment slots available each week.


The national shortage of child mental health providers, coupled with the increased prevalence of mental health disorders, requires a close collaboration between pediatrics and psychiatry to meet the needs of children and their families. By working together, we can treat mild to moderate mental health conditions and prevent an escalation to more serious problems with more serious impairments.
Karyn Horowitz, M.D., Director of Outpatient Child Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Services at Lifespan


22019 KIDS Count Factbook



Rhode Island’s rate of drug use for 12- to 17-year-olds is higher than the national average—12.1% compared to the national average of 9.1%.3

In 2019, BCBSRI again awarded a $20,000 grant to The Providence Center to support the operations and future growth of The Jim Gillen Teen Center. Established in 2018, the center provides evidence-based, age-appropriate recovery support for adolescents to help combat disproportionate relapse rates.


When we first opened the Jim Gillen Teen Center, our goal was to provide a place for youth to come together to support each other in their recovery. We are achieving that goal by allowing these teens to begin to explore resources that will assist them in building their recovery capital, giving them confidence for their future. We are so grateful to Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island for their ongoing support of this important program.
Deborah M. O’Brien, BS, RN, MPA, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Providence Center


3Brown University School of Public Health, 2018

Preventing Opioid Misuse Through Education and Conversation

In 2019, BCBSRI continued our partnership with Rhode Island PBS Education Services to increase awareness around the state’s opioid epidemic. Together, we have provided curriculum resources to local educators based on the documentary program The Fix: Examining Rhode Island’s Opioid Epidemic. We also held two engagement events in communities hardest hit by the epidemic, to promote awareness, constructive conversation, and access to local support services and resources.

In recognition of the State of Rhode Island’s Recovery Month, Rhode Island PBS and BCBSRI offered an additional screening of The Fix and hosted a statewide teacher training in September 2019.


2019 NETA Award winner for community initiative

The Fix received a 2019 NETA Award, which honors public television’s best work in education, community engagement, marketing/communications, and content.

View the announcement


415 educators have received curriculum resources

high school lesson plan   middle school lesson plan

Rhode Island has faced many crises over the years, but few compare to the current opioid epidemic that has thousands of families under siege. I am proud of the work being done to raise awareness of potential solutions to this issue, not just pointing fingers at the problem. The partnership with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island has made this public education and information sharing possible.
David W. Piccerelli, President of Rhode Island PBS



Heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined.4 To bring attention to heart disease in women, BCBSRI and the Southern New England American Heart Association created the Heart2Heart Storytellers campaign in 2017, which features the stories of survivors of heart disease and stroke.

In 2019, six courageous women used their voices to raise awareness about heart disease, and BCBSRI made a $25,000 donation to the American Heart Association on their behalf.

4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016


Watch Go Red 2019 "Survivor Stories"



Protecting the health of local seniors


BCBSRI was proud to once again support the March for Meals campaign for Meals on Wheels Rhode Island. This annual fundraising campaign helps raise awareness about the need for good nutrition and social interaction for seniors in our community. Beyond meal support, dozens of BCBSRI employees personally wrote notes to Meals on Wheels clients before Veterans Day and Thanksgiving as well as bought more than 200 gifts during the holidays as part of the Senior Wish program.




BCBSRI was honored to receive a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index for the fifth consecutive year. This recognition underscores our continued drive to strengthen our diversity and inclusion efforts. Administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Corporate Equity Index is a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality.

2019 Community Report — Healthy Kids (Section 3)

Healthy Kids

A healthy state starts with protecting the well-being of our children

Kids playing illustration

The programs we support help kids and families thrive through nutrition and physical activity.


Since 2002, BCBSRI has donated more than $3.8 million to local nonprofits through our BlueAngel Community Health Grant program. For the past five years, our grant funding has focused on promoting the importance of good nutrition, physical activity, and healthy weight for children and their families.

In 2020, we will continue to fund programs that positively affect the health of Rhode Islanders, expanding our focus to safe and affordable housing. By investing in this area, we hope to improve health and quality of life, particularly for low-income and underserved Rhode Islanders.




awarded in grants in 2019




Rhode Island children and family members benefited from grant funded programs


Grant Recipients

Boys and Girls Club


Boys & Girls Club of Providence

41 children and family members received nutrition education and cooking lessons, creating weekly recipes in class and at home.

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Martin Luther King Center


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center

3,515 children and family members benefitted from cooking and nutrition education as well as family dinners, help from a dietitian and case manager, and food pantry assistance.

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Farm Fresh Rhode Island


Farm Fresh Rhode Island

1,277 children and family members received federal food assistance, learned how to shop for affordable, seasonal foods, and made healthy, kid-friendly recipes.

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Rhode Island Community Food Bank


Rhode Island Community Food Bank

151 children and family members received education about good nutrition, physical activity, and healthy weights through a six-week class.

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South County Health Equity Zone Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds


South County Health Equity Zone Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds

7,188 children participated in the "5-2-1-0 Childhood Obesity Prevention" program at 37 sites, including early learning/Head Start centers and elementary schools.

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These organizations received a second year of funding in 2019 to continue their important work.


Children’s Friend

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

YMCA of Pawtucket

YWCA Rhode Island

Data from local schools

● The percentage of principals reporting that conflict escalating to physical fights two or more times per week dropped from 18% before the training to only 4%.

● 94% of students surveyed reported that they participate in physical activity all the time or some of the time during recess.

● 84% of principals reported that most to all of the adults are supporting a positive recess climate, compared with only 56% prior to the training.



One of the ways that we celebrated our 80th anniversary in 2019 was to expand the #RecessRocksinRI initiative to 80 public elementary schools. The goal of #RecessRocksinRI is to change school culture, increase physical activity, and improve the health of children through safe, fun, and healthy play at school every day.

This collaboration—among BCBSRI, Playworks New England, and the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition—helps not only the physical health of children, but also their social relationships, emotional well-being, and academic success.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that both recess and physical education in schools promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, and recommends that recess, whether it’s spent indoors or outdoors, should be used as a complement to physical education classes, not a substitute. This partnership has helped to bring the benefits of an effective recess to our students statewide.
Karin Wetherill
Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition
Playground background















donated since 2015


Kids Count LogoAfter five years of effort and leadership, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, with support from BCBSRI, released Rhode Island’s first-ever comprehensive, statewide report on the body mass index—the ratio of weight to height—of Rhode Island children in March 2019. The report found that 35% of Rhode Island children are either overweight or obese, on average. In the state’s core cities, that number rises to 43%.

This new data will serve as a resource to health, government, and nonprofit organizations, helping to justify policies and programs that promote a healthy weight for our state’s children.

Watch video Childhood Overweight and Obesity Report


2019 Community Report — Access to Care (Section 4)

Access to Care

Having regular access to healthcare improves health, lowers cost, and reduces health disparities.

Waiting room illustration

To help ensure all Rhode Islanders receive needed care, we support nonprofits that provide services to the uninsured and underserved members of our community.


Since 2005, BCBSRI has been supporting the important work of the Rhode Island Free Clinic (RIFC). During our 80th anniversary year, we awarded them an $80,000 grant to support their services to the uninsured, including primary care, specialty care, lab tests, and other medical care.

Beyond financial support, BCBSRI physicians volunteer their time providing primary care at RIFC. Our employees also volunteer their time for projects ranging from clinic renovations to helping determine a return on investment for services the RIFC provides to the state. 


Icon 2,660

uninsured Rhode Islanders received services at RIFC in 2019


Icon $850,000+

donated to the RIFC since 2005



Blue Cross is one of Clinic's longest and strongest partnerships. This support has been essential to helping the Clinic provide vital care for Rhode Island's most vulnerable adults. Our collaboration with Blue Cross over time is what makes a long-term difference in the health and vitality of the individuals and communities we serve.
Marie Ghazal, DNP, RN, CEO of Rhode Island Free Clinic


We were proud to continue our support of Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, which serves a population of predominantly Spanish-speaking uninsured patients.

Their Bridging the Gap (BTG) program has provided critical healthcare access to Rhode Island residents who are uninsured and at risk of health disparities. Through the program, they offer outreach, walk-in, and continuity of care activities.

A report in the Rhode Island Journal of Medicine shows that BTG had a positive impact on participant health and well-being. Participants lowered their body weight, increased exercise participation, and improved chronic disease management. This study also showed that BTG participants used the emergency room 60% less than Medicaid patients over the same time period.


Icon 2,312

patients at CHEER included in study5


Icon $449,000

approximate savings per year due to reduced emergency room use6


5Clínica Esperanza/ Hope Clinic Emergency Room Diversion

6"Four Years of CHEER: Cost and QALY Savings of a Free Nurse- run Walk-in Clinic Serving an Uninsured, Predominantly Spanish- speaking Immigrant Population in Providence." Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 30 (2019): 806–819

Access to Wellness


BCBSRI hosted free wellness programs and screenings at nonprofit partners across the state to help Rhode Islanders take care of their health.


Icon 71

wellness programs and screenings


Icon 657

Rhode Islanders assisted by these programs

Giving free dental care to those in need

In the course of two days last September, the Rhode Island Mission of Mercy provided free dental services to the uninsured, underinsured, or anyone who cannot access dental care. BCBSRI supported this Rhode Island Oral Health Foundation event with $11,000 in funding as well as the time of 35 employee volunteers as part of Blue across Rhode Island, our annual company-wide day of service.



patients received dental care



oral health procedures provided



donated value of dental services


Since 2012, we've invested $230,000 in support of the Rhode Island Licensed Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program.

This program offers health education loan repayments to primary care, dentistry, and mental health professionals who have made a two-year commitment to practice in medically underserved communities in Rhode Island. Through this program, we're helping address the shortage in primary care services, which is one of the causes of disparities in health.


Icon 25

loan repayment awards granted in 2019


Icon $899,500

in grants awarded


BCBSRI is a founding funder of the Trans* Health Access Team at Thundermist Health Center, the first program of its kind in Rhode Island. It ensures that trans* people have access to a wide array of clinically and culturally appropriate healthcare services, including primary medical care, behavioral health services, and oral health care.

Trans* is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum.


Icon 1,000

patients have been assisted by the Trans* Health Access Team since 2015



Five years ago, we reached out to Blue Cross and asked them to partner with us to develop a Trans Health Access Team at Thundermist Health Center. Without a multiyear funding commitment from BCBSRI, we would not have been able to launch this important initiative. As trans individuals and healthcare providers, we are so grateful to Blue Cross for their support.
Lauren Nocera, MSW, MPH and Jayeson Watts, LICSW

2019 Community Report — Service (Section 5)


Volunteers are at the heart of BCBSRI's community investment efforts

Service illustration

Our BlueAngel volunteers brought their time, talent, and treasure to dozens of organizations across Rhode Island, serving 11,000+ hours in 2019.

Giving hands-on support with blue across rhode island


On Friday, September 13, hundreds of BCBSRI employees completed large-scale volunteer projects at 14 nonprofit agencies across the state during our eighth annual company-wide day of service. In addition to volunteer support, each project site received a financial contribution of $5,000 to assist with their important work.




Hours of volunteer service



Employee volunteers participated



Nonprofit organizations assisted



Rhode Islanders impacted



Rather than hold a Thanksgiving Food Drive in 2019, BCBSRI introduced a Summer Snackdown for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

This food drive helped meet the enormous need during the summer months when kids are out of school and not receiving free and reduced-priced meals at their schools. For four weeks in May and June, BCBSRI collected healthy, kid-friendly food items.


Icon 6,269

food items collected in 2019 for Rhode Islanders in need


Icon $10,000

matching contribution from BCBSRI to the Food Bank


Each year, BCBSRI makes a donation to McAuley House to fund meals distributed to men, women, and children who are hungry in our community.

Support from Lunch On Us at McAuley House provides nutritious breakfast, lunch, and take-away afternoon meals to approximately 74,000 people each year. As part of the Lunch on Us Program, our employees volunteer every weekday in June to help staff serve lunches to the guests at McAuley House.


Icon 50

employee volunteers


Icon 150+

volunteer hours


Icon $10,000

to feed 5,000 meals to neighbors in need

Fundraising for our community


BCBSRI has a long tradition of supporting the United Way of Rhode Island, which is the focus of our biggest fundraising effort of the year. Our employees also donated to important organizations such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association.



for the United Way of Rhode Island


Email us at blueangel.news@bcbsri.org to learn how to get our BlueAngel volunteers involved at your organization.

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