$550,000 to fund UCCS community-focused healthcare, wellness and resilience programs

UCCS has received nearly $550,000 in grant funding from El Paso County through the American Recovery Plan Act to support healthcare, wellness and resilience programs to benefit Colorado and the nation. Photo credit: Jacob Boomsma

Investing in the health and wellness of the Colorado Springs and broader communities is at the heart of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) mission. Now, the university has received nearly $550,000 in grant funding from El Paso County through the American Recovery Plan Act to support healthcare, wellness and resilience programs to benefit Colorado and the nation.

Nearly $400,000 of the funding will support the expansion of the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience Greater Resilience Information Toolkit (GRIT) programs in El Paso County. GRIT is designed to empower individuals to become positive influences on those around them and promote resilience in their communities. GRIT offers specialized online trainings for community members, educators, healthcare workers, military members and first responders, and leaders and small business owners. As “GRIT Coaches,” individuals learn how to help combat the effects of adversity on their communities.

“This funding will be a huge benefit for developing out our GRIT community program, which helps members of our community become a resilience support coach for the people in their own social networks, including family, friends and colleagues,” explained Chip Benight, Executive Director of the Institute.

The free, online GRIT courses already provide information and skills on coping with general and COVID-19 stress, disaster recovery and other resilience skills. GRIT Coaches from nearly every U.S. state and multiple nations have completed the training, bringing resilience tools nation- and worldwide. The grant funding will allow the Institute to expand on the existing program, develop new resources and provide in-person trainings.

“These funds will allow us to build a GRIT app called GRIT-E that will offer coaching support and help people have more effective conversations with those they love and care for,” Benight continued. “It will also provide support for our first GRIT Coach conference here at UCCS, where we can offer state-of-the-art lectures and other skill trainings focused on community-wide resilience.”

$150,000 of the funding will support the launch of the Jumpstart the Aging Workforce Solutions (JAWS) program, a brand-new UCCS initiative. The program aims to develop a healthcare worker recruitment pipeline to help ensure there will be enough healthcare workers to care for Colorado’s aging population.

Colorado is one of the top three fastest-growing aging states in the nation, and the current long-term care workforce is not prepared to meet the demand for care, according to the JAWS grant application for funding. Residential care settings struggled with staffing shortages prior to COVID-19, and the emergence and continuation of the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.

“Among all healthcare workers who have done heavy lifting during the pandemic, long term care staff, including homecare and palliative care workers, have been exceptionally hard hit, but received far less attention than hospital workers,” said Judith Scott, Assistant Professor of Nursing.

“Shortages of staff who provide crucial support for older adults aging in place have resulted in waiting lists for home services and beds in facilities, putting older adults at risk and their paid and family caregivers in situations where there is no one to help,” Scott continued. “The results include longer hospitalizations and are a cause for rehospitalizations in an already overburdened acute care system.”

Thanks to the grant funding, JAWS, in partnership with El Paso County, will develop and implement a recruitment pipeline that will link potential employees with job opportunities, prepare applicants for the workforce and mentor them as they get hired.

“Over the next two years, the JAWS project will work on rebuilding the local workforce,” said Sara Qualls, Kraemer Family Professor of Aging Studies. “We are pleased that experts at UCCS can contribute to this critically important work that will benefit Colorado and beyond.”

About the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS)

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs (USS) offers 55 bachelor’s, 24 master’s and eight doctoral degree programs and enrolls about 12,000 students annually. Located in the heart of Colorado Springs, UCCS has a strong student focus and access mission, with a goal of transforming lives for the better. For more information, visit uccs.edu.