CEOC will be 1 of 5 community-based organizations in MA to implement a new community-based mental health services initiative

CEOC will be 1 of 5 community-based organizations in MA to implement a new community-based mental health services initiative

Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee (CEOC), an anti-poverty Community Action Agency nonprofit organization, was one of five community-based organizations in Massachusetts to receive Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation’s “Advancing Community Driven Mental Health” grant. This three-year grant will fund the implementation of community-based mental health services at CEOC for adults with mild to moderate mental health distress. Non-clinician staff members will be trained to deliver a manualized mental health intervention, called Problem Management Plus (PM+). This intervention was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has demonstrated efficacy in reducing psychological distress.


“Given the current state of the behavioral health crisis in Massachusetts, we believe it is critical to expand our knowledge of the role that non-clinical individuals can play in meeting the basic mental health needs of communities in a more socially and culturally relevant way,” said Audrey Shelto, President and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “The WHO model is an evidence-based intervention with demonstrated success that we are eager to evaluate further through our new grant program and determine how it may be adopted more widely across the Commonwealth.”


This is a cutting-edge initiative. CEOC, along with the four other grantees (Quincy Asian Resources, The Community Builders, Stavros Center for Independent Living, and Boston Senior Home Care), will be only the second implementation of PM+ in the country. It has been implemented and tested in Rwanda, Peru, Mexico, Malawi, and by The Family Van in Massachusetts. CEOC will partner with De Novo, a Cambridge-based nonprofit that provides integrated legal and mental health services, to provide clinical supervision and guidance.


“It’s CEOC’s job to respond to the needs of the community. We have seen the great need for community-based mental health services in Cambridge for some time now, so we’re excited to finally be able to lead efforts in the City to meet that need,” said Tina Alu, Executive Director of CEOC. “We know that poverty is a huge life stressor – we hear it every day from the clients who walk through our door. To be able to now provide mental health services for these clients who struggle with their mental health and stress management will be life-changing.”


There is a huge unmet need for mental health services in Cambridge and across the state and country. We have seen across the nation the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, which greatly increased the need for mental health services amidst a shortage of mental health providers.


Not only this, but we see hesitancy to seek mental health services in the communities we serve due to cost and stigma. “Mental health is so important, and we are not doing enough to address it. Many of my clients tell me about their mental health struggles; they trust me and they don’t know where else to turn,” said Yemi Kibret, a Community Advocate and Educator at CEOC who has been advocating for a mental health program since she started working at CEOC. “Since mental health issues are taboo for some communities and cultures, I want to say to anyone who is struggling with mental health issues, you are not alone.”


The ability for our staff to be trained to deliver a mental health intervention will be transformational in our community. Our advocates work hard to develop ongoing trusting relationships with the participants they serve, a foundation they can build upon as they deliver the PM+ intervention.


Along with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, partners on this initiative include Partners in Health, The Family Van, and Institute for Community Health.


For more information, visit the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of MA website: