Ronald McDonald House Charities Utah and Regence partner to provide mental health care for local children and families

By Regence
January 04, 2022
Ronald McDonald House Charities Utah Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah

$1.25 million endowment grant to support RMHC Utah’s Family Support Services program

Main image: Carrie Romano, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Utah, and Jim Swayze, president of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah

As Jim Swayze recalls it, the idea hit him like a “lightning bolt” during a board meeting for Ronald McDonald House Charities Utah. Its CEO, Carrie Romano, shared her vision to provide skilled mental health care and grief support onsite for families while their children are treated for serious, often life-threatening illnesses or injuries. During this unimaginably vulnerable time, loved ones too often have to say their final goodbyes.

Swayze is the president of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah who enthusiastically serves as a board member for RMHC Utah. His idea? Aligning Romano's vision with Regence’s focus on improving access to mental health care. It was a perfect fit and the need to better support families at the house was critical.

Based on Swayze's suggestion, Romano and her team successfully applied for a grant from Regence’s charitable arm to fund a pilot program, which was established in 2020. Since then, an experienced specialist has provided mental health services, palliative care, and grief support for a growing number of children and their families at RMHC Utah. Based on an immensely positive impact during the first year, a decision was made to fund the Family Support Services program into perpetuity with a $1.25 million endowment grant.

The transformational grant creates a legacy of meaningful, lasting support for pediatric patients and their families throughout the Intermountain region, including: 

  • Crisis intervention and mental health support for children and their families, who are scared, distressed or grieving and may have limited resources.
  • Grief support through each child’s diagnosis, medical journey and palliative care process.  
  • Collaborative case management to help address social determinants of health with robust referrals to community resources locally and during the families’ transition home.

Families in need will benefit from these services at RMHC Utah for decades to come. The shared vision is to encourage Ronald McDonald House Charities nationwide to replicate this groundbreaking, game-changing program, which is already helping many pediatric patients and their loved ones.    

Learn more about the Family Support Services program by watching this Fox 13 story featuring Carrie and Jim (he’s the one with the “permanent smile” while talking about RMHC Utah). They also encourage viewers to “Shine Your Light” in support for RMHC and other community organizations.