Community Foundation Awards $12,000 Technology Grant to Washington Communities Human Services for Tele-Health Services

March 30, 2021

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Pictured: Kelsee Bainer, WCHS Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Supports Coordinator, interacts virtually with a consumer using equipment secured with a WCCF grant.

Eighty Four, PA – The Washington County Community Foundation (WCCF) recently awarded a $12,000 technology grant from its Close to Home Disaster & Emergency Fund to Washington Communities Human Services (WCHS) to purchase an information technology server for tele-health services. This grant complements a $15,000 technology grant the Foundation made to WCHS in 2018.

“The COVID-19 virus has impacted every industry and has resulted in a significantly increased use of technology among many industries, including the health-care industry,” remarked Betsie Trew, WCCF President & CEO. “Washington Communities Human Services, a local behavioral health charitable nonprofit, had to quickly adapt from an in-person delivery of services model to a tele-health delivery of services model. They had the laptops and other equipment, but their existing IT server was near its end and needed to be replaced.”

“When COVID first hit the US in March 2020, behavioral health service providers were scrambling to find and purchase information technology equipment to convert employees to remote work,” said Natalie Ross, Executive Director, Washington Communities Human Services. “But because of a previous capacity-building grant we received from the Foundation’s Community CARE Fund, we were able to convert our services to a tele-health platform seamlessly without even a day of disruption. However, earlier this year we learned that our IT server was at its end and would no longer be supported. To ensure the protection of confidential information, we had no choice but to replace this equipment; however, it would come with a significant price tag. Once again, WCCF didn't hesitate to help with the Close to Home grant.”

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Pictured: Russell Stevens of Technical Products and Services installs the new information technology server at WCHS.

Since 1968, Washington Communities Human Services has been providing behavioral health services to mental health consumers and to consumers with intellectual disabilities and autism disorders. With a staff of 32 direct care workers, supervisors, and support staff, the organization provides services to 1,900 consumers in our community. In addition to the technology challenges that the charity experienced through the pandemic, the transition to tele-health has presented other challenges, particularly with consumers who may suffer abuse, have hygiene issues, or those who engage in self-injurious behavior. Behavioral health professionals are much better able to detect behavioral/emotional problems or escalation of symptoms when they are physically face to face with a consumer. Despite the challenges with tele-health services, WCHS reports that for some consumers, such as those with transportation and/or child care issues, tele-health has resulted in fewer cancellations for therapy and appointments. With some of the successes, WCHS believes it is likely that a hybrid model of in-person and tele-health services will become commonplace in the delivery of behavioral health services.

Each year the Foundation directs a significant portion of its grants to capacity-building initiatives including equipment purchases, such as this grant to WCHS. In 2021 a minimum of $250,000 in capacity-building grants will be issued to area non-profits. Grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000 and any project that increases a non-profit’s operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity will be considered.

“To enable charities to be in the best position to provide quality programming, you have to invest first in the charity to ensure that it has the proper tools to operate,” remarked Trew. “And so, we have targeted a significant portion of our grants budget for capacity-building, and we encourage nonprofits to submit an application during one of our two competitive capacity-building cycles this year.”

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About the WCCF

The WCCF promotes and facilitates local philanthropy in an effort to improve the quality of life in Washington County. In addition to issuing grants to local non-profits, the Foundation also issues both need-based and merit-based scholarships to local students, and facilitates an annual day of giving that benefits more than 100 local charities. To learn more about the Foundation’s activities, please visit