Hillman Foundation Announces 2015 Innovations in Care Winners

Two nursing-driven programs targeting vulnerable populations receive $600,000 each to expand efforts 

The Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation today announced the 2015 recipients of the Hillman Innovations in Care Program, a multi-year initiative created to expand leading edge, nursing-driven programs that address the healthcare needs of vulnerable populations.  The winning projects – a community-integrated public health nursing/legal partnership serving low-income mothers and babies, and a nurse-led transitional care program for homeless persons – were selected from a diverse field of over 130 applicants. The Foundation’s selection committee praised the grant recipients for their creative approaches to addressing some of healthcare’s most intractable challenges, and for their efforts to meet the triple aim goals of simultaneously improving health, reducing costs, and improving the patient and caregiver experience.

"This year’s winning programs represent innovative grass-roots efforts that look well beyond the boundaries of conventional healthcare to improve lives,” said Ahrin Mishan, Executive Director of the Hillman Foundation. "The nurses leading these efforts, as well as their network of partners, are committed to serving society’s most marginalized populations. We hope that our support will help bring these important emerging models to scale."

The grantees, who will each receive a $600,000 three-year grant, are:

Project Access of Durham County (PADC), North Carolina (Principal Investigators: Julia Gamble, MPH, NP and Donna J. Biederman, DrPH, MN, RN) The Hillman Innovations in Care grant will be used to grow and further develop the Durham Medical Respite Program, a nurse-led, community based initiative which provides safe and supportive respite housing to homeless persons who require a place for healing that is safer than the street or shelters following discharge from a hospital, behavioral health, or jail setting. 

Hillman funds will help to broaden the role of nurse care coordinators and community health workers, who, in addition to connecting patients to health care for chronic and acute conditions, will help patients navigate access to housing and other benefits.  Nursing students and other health professionals will be invited to participate in educational events tailored to the care of populations experiencing homelessness or housing instability. The overall goal of the program is to improve the health and quality of life of homeless and housing insecure patients experiencing care transitions, reduce costs, and reduce care provider’s time and emotional burden.

“The Durham Medical Respite Program addresses a pressing unmet need to offer safe discharge options for homeless persons who are too sick for the streets or a shelter, but not sick enough to qualify for continued hospitalization,” said Bobbie Berkowitz, Dean of the Columbia University School of Nursing and chair of the Foundation's review committee. “The connection between lack of housing and poor health is evident and substantiated, and the Durham Medical Respite Program addresses this challenge using a promising model that could be replicated in other communities across the United States.”

National Nursing Centers Consortium (NNCC) Philadelphia Nurse-Family Partnership (Principal Investigator: Katherine Kinsey, PhD, RN, FAAN)  Hillman funding will be used to create a community-integrated Public Health Nursing/Legal Partnership (PHNLP), which will serve the health and social needs of low-income mothers and babies in Philadelphia.  Public health nurses from NNCC’s Philadelphia Nurse-Family Partnership/Mabel Morris Family Home Visiting Program (NFP/MM), will collaborate with lawyers from the Health, Education and Legal Assistance Program (HELP) at Widener University on the project.

“This project takes two highly-successful models –Nurse-Family Partnership and Medical-Legal Partnership – and integrates them to create a broad based network of services.” said Theresa Brown, BSN, RN, a member of the Foundation’s review committee who is both a practicing nurse and a frequent contributor to the New York Times. “While medical-legal partnerships have existed in traditional hospital settings for years, this community-based effort represents a bold, new approach to addressing the social determinants of health."

In the new program, the current NFP/MM staff of 40 public health nurses will work on teams with lawyers from the HELP program to provide seamless health, legal and social services to more than 650 new mothers per year.  The team will address unmet legal needs, identify and pursue policy issues affecting client health, and improve program efficiency by freeing up time previously spent by nurses on case management. Staff will also measure cost savings and social return on investment to help the program secure ongoing funding, and provide a road map for statewide replication and expansion.

About the Hillman Innovations in Care Program

The goal of the Hillman Innovations in Care Program is to advance leading edge, nursing-driven models of care that improve the health and health care of vulnerable populations, including the economically disadvantaged, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBQT, the homeless, rural populations, and other groups that encounter barriers to accessing healthcare services. The foundation is specifically interested in proposals that address maternal and child health, care of the older adult, and chronic illness management. The Foundation will accept submissions for the next round of proposals in March 2016, and will award grants again in late 2016.

For more information on the Hillman Innovations in Care Program or to access the RFP, please visit http://www.rahf.org/grant-programs/hillman-innovations-in-care-program/.

Linda Le


The Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation mission is to improve the lives of patients and their families through nursing-driven innovation. To this end, the Foundation cultivates nurse leaders, supports nursing research, and disseminates new models of care that are critical to making the U.S. healthcare system more patient-centered, accessible, equitable, and affordable. The foundation’s goal is to leverage the power of nursing’s unique knowledge to ensure that the healthcare system can deliver the high-quality care patients need and deserve.


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