Florida Blue Foundation Honors Nine With Sapphire Awards For Addressing Mental Well-Being, Provides $525,000 In Funding

2023 Winners Photo: (pictured Left to Right): Paul Lowenthal (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Camillus House), Robin Ingles (CEO of Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay), Connie Bookman (Founder and CEO, Pathways for Change), Vicky Basra (President & CEO of Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center), Raquel Tapia-Bell (Senior Director of Operations and Programs at Foundation for Foster Children), Belma Andric (Chief Medical Officer and VP and Executive Director of Clinic Services at Health Care District of Palm Beach County), Pauline Green (Executive Director of The Alliance for LGBTQ Youth), Julie Swindler (CEO of Families First of Palm Beach County) and Brenda Lopez (Social Services Manager of Caridad Center).
Raquel Tapia-Bell
Pat Geraghty, President & CEO of GuideWell and Florida Blue w/Raquel Tapia-Bell
Tony Jenkins, Central Florida Market President, Florida Blue w/ Raquel Tapia-Bell

ORLANDO – The Florida Blue Foundation, the philanthropic affiliate of Florida Blue, recently held its 2023 Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards where they honored nine recipients from across the state who are doing exemplary work to provide mental health care services and support to those who otherwise may not have access to this type of care.

Here locally, Raquel Tapia Bell, Senior Director of Operations and Programs at the Foundation for Foster Children in Winter Park, FL, received a second-place award of $50,000 to be directed to the nonprofit’s programs.  The Foundation for Foster Children provides opportunities for children in foster care in Central Florida.  Leveraging her education and experience in mental health case management and counseling, Tapia-Bell created customized programming to help young individuals navigate mental health challenges.

“As a mission-driven company focused on helping people and communities achieve better health, we are committed to improving access to care, including mental health support, to reduce the stressors that often impact entire families and communities,” said Susan Towler, executive director of the Florida Blue Foundation. “We are truly impressed with the results these nine awardees have achieved and look forward to working with them as they continue to make a difference for the individuals and communities they serve.”

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults experiences a mental illness each year and one in six children experiences an episode of mental health disorder each year. Given the growing mental health crisis, it is difficult for many people to get the care they need. Fortunately, there are people, programs and organizations within the state of Florida that are addressing mental well-being challenges and improving outcomes.

Each of the programs, organizations, and individuals honored with a Sapphire Award was selected through a robust external review process for their exemplary leadership, innovative ideas, demonstrated outcomes, and excellence. They all have a track record of improving mental well-being outcomes, which directly impact people’s overall health and quality of life.

This is the 19th year the Florida Blue Foundation has presented the Sapphire Awards to individuals, programs, and organizations in community health. Since 2005, the Foundation has presented 139 Sapphire Awards, totaling nearly $7 million.

Florida Blue Foundation presented the Sapphire Awards during its annual two-day Community Health Symposium. This year’s event focused on mental well-being and attracted nearly 700 people from the health care, government, higher education and nonprofit sectors.

The event featured national and statewide speakers, panel discussions, and networking opportunities focused on identifying solutions to address mental well-being, improve affordability, and increase access to high-quality care.

The Florida Blue Foundation enables healthy communities by making grants, building coalitions, and embracing solutions that create a meaningful impact in our communities. More than 8 million Floridians have received services as a result of our community investments since its founding in 2001. The Florida Blue Foundation is committed to improve health equity by impacting food security, advancing mental well-being, growing healthy communities, and addressing health disparities. For more information, please visit www.FloridaBlueFoundation.com.