In 1949, the U.S. Congress worked with the nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health America to designate each May as Mental Health Month, a time to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the challenges faced by people living with them.

Sixty-one years later, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania's Blue Ribbon Foundation is doing its part by awarding grants to local agencies that are providing screenings and education programs for more than 3,800 residents who need behavioral health support.

"It is important to raise awareness of mental health issues among health care providers and the community at large," said Dr. Leo Hartz, chief medical officer for BCNEPA. "Education programs and screenings are critical in helping individuals discover hidden mental health risks so they can get the treatment they need."

Among those helped by the the Foundation were:

Ÿ Maternal and Family Health Services, which partnered with Moses Taylor Hospital and the Scranton Primary Health Care Center to conduct depression and anxiety screenings for 700 un- and underinsured prenatal women across Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming Counties in 2009. Participants were evaluated and screened by a licensed clinical psychologist during their second trimester and referred for additional services, if necessary.

Ÿ Blue Mountain Health System designed its Community Education Behavioral Health and Depressive Disorder Project to dramatically increase the amount of education and the number of community-based screenings for at-risk individuals across Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe and Pike Counties. More than 2,400 participants received education, early detection, and intervention for mental health disorders in 2009 thanks to Foundation funding.