The origins of Metro Health Foundation, its purpose, methods, and priorities spring from the ongoing belief in community approaches to address complex health issues. In 1972 the Black-Polish Conference, a community group established by Congressman John Conyers, Jr., agreed that access to basic primary health care was a huge unmet need in their Hamtramck and eastside Detroit community. Wayne State University was contacted for assistance, and an advisory committee was established. 100 community residents came together to form a working group that became the Northeast Community Health Council (NCHC).
Grants were received to fund the development of a community-based Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). The University’s advisory committee and the NCHC agreed on an organizational structure, and the first meeting of Wayne Community Health Services was held in 1974. The “Wayne Community Health Plan” was incorporated in 1975 as a health program for the Detroit community. The HMO began providing care in 1977, when its name was changed to Group Health Plan of Southeastern Michigan.
Federal money was granted during its early years, along with various other grants, but the federal funds gradually disappeared. The funding pressures limited the programs and services that the HMO could provide. Competition drained away any discretionary funds. To remain viable, Group Health Plan became a for-profit HMO by selling its assets to a Detroit, Michigan, area consortium of hospitals. Its remaining assets became the “start-up” assets of Metro Health Foundation (MHF) in 1986. The first MHF grants were awarded in January 1988.
The board of MHF continues to support the original intent of the HMO “to improve the community health.” The membership of the board reflects its philosophy of identifying metropolitan agencies, institutions, and organizations that can truly “do a lot with a little,” multiplying the effect of the grant dollars in meeting the community’s health care needs. Grants are based on three guiding principles: for primary, physical health care, and health-related services; for under-funded projects rather than to augment otherwise worthy but funded projects; for projects and institutions that strive to do a lot with a little – endeavors that are struggling with underfunded situations. MHF supports programs that serve vulnerable individuals within the City of Detroit, Michigan, and the surrounding tri-county area.
MHF’s grantmaking priorities are:
- Increasing the capacity of organizations providing primary physical health care to become medical homes for the newly insured
- Supporting community- based organizations in providing Affordable Care Act (ACA) outreach, education, and enrollment
- Supporting prior grantees and other community-based organizations as they develop programs and modify their current operations to reflect new opportunities resulting from health care reform
- Funding limited scholarships and other activities to increase the number of medical professionals and para- professionals needed to meet the expected demand for primary physical health care
- Supporting public policy development that addresses the needs of vulnerable populations consistent with MHF’s mission
Proposals which directly serve the health care needs of at-risk, urban groups are favored. New or demonstration projects are encouraged.
Total Assets: $7,802,635 (FY20)
Amount Dedicated to Health-Related Grants: $204,858 million (FY20)
Special Initiatives and/or Representative Health and Human Services Grants
Centro Multicultural La Familia, Inc.—to provide insurance and health care navigation services in English and Spanish to the uninsured and underinsured. ($25,000)
Detroit Wayne County Health Authority (D/B/A Authority Health)—to fund three $2,000 Fellow stipends for the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship for projects being conducted in Wayne County, Michigan. ($6,000)
Macomb Community College Foundation—to purchase equipment for a new clinic, which will provide free dental care to the uninsured and underinsured through the dental hygiene program. ($34,576)
Ruth Ellis Center—to support start-up costs for a medical clinic located within a permanent supportive housing complex for homeless and runaway LGBTQ youth. ($50,000)
Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance—to deploy community health workers in Wayne County, Michigan, to increase the rate of COVID-19 vaccination, especially among high-risk and underserved populations. ($28,700)
Metro Health Foundation and GIH
Metro Health Foundation recently rejoined GIH after many years away because, while its statewide philanthropy-supporting membership organization serves it well in many important ways, it does not have many members like MHF. As a health care conversion foundation with less than $10 million in assets, it is fairly unique in the state but has found several similar funders within GIH. During this first year of membership, MHF Executive Director Ruth Kaleniecki connected with peers across the country through GIH, who not only provided helpful information during GIH-hosted sessions, but also met with Ms. Kaleniecki one-on-one and candidly, which she says has been helpful to her as a new Executive Director and sole staff member. Ms. Kaleniecki also had the opportunity to talk with many GIH staff members, who she says helped her quickly connect with GIH’s network and programming and offered resources and insights that she found incredibly helpful.
Strategic Changes in Grantmaking Direction
“Metro Health Foundation is currently reevaluating its grantmaking direction in the wake of learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation has also permanently shifted to remote operations and had a leadership change in summer 2021. We are reviewing our bylaws and considering what we should be and how we should be structured, both now and in the future.”
– Ruth Kaleniecki, Executive Director, Metro Health Foundation