JF&CS Launches Be Well Atlanta Initiative

March 30, 2023

JF&CS Launches Be Well Atlanta Initiative

Jewish Family and Career Services Launches Be Well Atlanta Initiative

With Initial $500,000 Matching Grant from The Zalik Foundation

Funds To Support Jewish Teen Mental Health and Wellness

ATLANTA (March 28, 2023) – Jewish Family and Career Services (JF&CS) today announced it has received a $500,000 matching grant from the Zalik Foundation to help address the growing teen mental health needs through a new Jewish Atlanta mental health and wellness program. The national Be Well initiative was developed through a collaboration of the Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies (NJHSA) and Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA). A roadmap was created to develop this program in select cities, and the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center of JF&CS was selected to lead the initiative in Atlanta.

The funds, secured through the Atlanta Jewish Funder Collaborative led by the Atlanta Jewish Foundation, will be used to support Jewish youth facing mental health challenges as well as those that care for them. The initiative will focus on the needs of young adults 12-26, to help them thrive through training, consulting, and mobilizing networks of care for positive youth development and overall wellbeing. This funding will provide for the hiring of two professionals, and will support cross-community partnerships, helping connect the community to services while decreasing barriers. In addition, strategies will be developed to best address wait lists and increase capacity, such as expanding therapeutic models, resiliency-building programs, and payment options to better respond to community needs.

Helen and David Zalik, Co-founders of the Zalik Foundation shared why Be Well was important to them.

“The growing mental health crisis affects children and families across our community; no one is immune to it. We are proud to help JF&CS kick-off BeWell Atlanta, through which Jewish organizations in Atlanta will increase their coordination of services, provide evidence-based training to front line educators and professionals working with youth, and offer new ways to support youth and teens’ mental health and wellbeing. We invite other philanthropists concerned about this critical issue to join the effort," they said.

This grant builds on Jewish Family and Career Services extensive array of mental health programs and services to assist those in need in Atlanta through its Frances Bunzl Clinical Services. In 2022, JF&CS launched the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center and added 15 dedicated therapists and consultants including a parent coach, an executive functioning coach, play therapists, and a child neurologist, Dr. Howard Shub, who has more than 40 years of experience in diagnosing and treating ADHD and other mental health disorders.

“We are grateful to The Zalik Foundation for this generous and impactful grant and the Atlanta Jewish Foundation for focusing on this critical need that will help to address the alarming wave of mental health challenges in young people and those that care for them in the Atlanta region,” said CEO Terri Bonoff Jewish Family and Career Services. “Our youth are our future, and it is imperative that we do all we can to support the mental health and well-being of children, teens and families.” said Bonoff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in March 2022 that a mental health crisis was accelerating among adolescents and with more than 4 in 10 saying they feel “persistently sad or hopeless” and 1 in 5 saying they had contemplated suicide. A more recent report in February 2023, shared that 3 in 5 teen girls were “persistently sad or hopeless” and 1 in 4 said they had contemplated suicide. The rates of sadness and hopelessness are the highest in a decade, reflecting an escalating trend made worse by the isolation and stress of the pandemic. This study reflected previous reports on escalating teen mental health challenges from doctors, therapists, and other mental health professionals.

Atlanta Jewish Foundation Chief Foundation Officer Jori Mendel said this action also reflects a local field scan funded by the Atlanta Jewish Foundation to understand the needs for mental health resources in Atlanta. In response to the Pandemic, the Atlanta Jewish Foundation had launched the Atlanta Jewish Funder Collaborative, which identified Mental Health as a key priority.

“We conducted dozens of interviews and focus groups to understand the landscape and needs of mental health for children and youth in the Atlanta Jewish community as well as gaps to address those needs,” said Mendel.

“This donor-driven research was supported by a multi-generational group of funders to identify ways to help advance the great work in improving mental health programs and services by metro Atlanta community organizations both Jewish and non-Jewish. This is a growing problem that will continue to need support for many years,” said Mendel.

For more information on how to support the Be Well initiative, please contact Atlanta Jewish Foundation Chief Foundation Officer, Jori Mendel at jmendel@jewishatlanta.org.

About the Atlanta Jewish Foundation

With 40+ years of experience, families, philanthropists, and wealth managers, consistently turn to the Atlanta Jewish Foundation for full-service, expert handling of charitable investments that make a real impact now and for future generations. We offer strategic philanthropic advising through a Jewish lens and a wide range of philanthropic giving vehicles. Our depth of experience with complex gifts, illiquid and non-cash assets, and closely held stocks, can help you maximize current tax benefits in alignment with your overall investment strategy.

About Jewish Family & Career Services

JF&CS offers programs and resources to help the Atlanta community. Guided by Jewish values, the Agency serves thousands of individuals annually regardless of age, gender, race, religion, national origin, or ability to pay. JF&CS’ experienced professionals bring integrity and compassion to their work in aging and older adults, career counseling, dentistry, mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and need-based support services. JF&CS is a 2022 and 2023 Top Workplaces of Atlanta winner, holds a Platinum Transparency GuideStar Rating, a 4-Star Charity Navigator Rating and is CARF Accredited. For more information, please call 770.677.9300 or visit JFCSatl.org.

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