DURHAM, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) and its Healthy Blue plan, which will serve Medicaid beneficiaries beginning November 1, announced a total investment of $775,000 to establish The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s (UNCP) new Community and Wellness Institute of Southeastern NC. The Institute will launch new university programs and expand upon existing community initiatives to transform the health landscape in the region by connecting the university, its students and its resources to the surrounding community. 
In 2017, Robeson County was ranked as the least healthy county in North Carolina according to the County Health Rankings Report. The county is marked by high levels of poverty and higher than average levels of people who are uninsured. Blue Cross NC and Healthy Blue’s investment will help UNCP continue its storied history of supporting Robeson County. As part of the total investment, $250,000 from Healthy Blue will be used to support Medicaid beneficiaries in Robeson County through the work of the Health Sciences College at UNCP. The programs provided by UNCP and its community partners will help address the existing drivers of poor health in the region and enact social change toward better total health outcomes for area residents. 
“UNC Pembroke holds a unique position to provide the innovation, outreach and well-trained workforce necessary to dramatically improve the health outcomes of their community,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, president and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “Our investment provides the resources they need to address health challenges in their community and will allow residents to achieve the high quality of health care they deserve.”
“As UNC Pembroke and our newly formed College of Health Sciences educate students to address the health care needs of southeastern North Carolina, we are fortunate to have a partner like Blue Cross NC,” said UNCP Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “Through initiatives that will have a direct impact on local communities, this partnership will advance our mutual mission to significantly and positively impact health outcomes in our region.”
The Institute plans to launch the following initiatives with the funding: 
· Collaboration to Address Behavioral and Mental Health in Robeson County
With the goal of addressing mental health disparity in Robeson County, funding will be used to continue development of the collaboration to address the abundance of health issues in communities of color, community engagement, mental health service gap analysis and financial stability. 
· Coalition for Health
The Coalition for Health will partner UNCP faculty, staff and students with community-based partners to provide enhanced outreach services to rural communities. Topics related to health, wellness, and social determinants of health will be covered through a variety of education programs, service initiatives and skill-building workshops. 
· Careers in Wellness
An investment in Careers in Wellness will allow students at UNCP to engage with students in junior high, high schools and the Lumbee Tribe Boys and Girls Club to participate in health and wellness programs. As part of the investment, UNCP students will also participate in the Health Careers Connections project in which the university recruits, mentors and places students in clinical internships in rural population health. 
· Life Skills Development Curriculum in Public Schools
In collaboration with the Public Schools of Robeson County, Robeson Community College and the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, UNCP’s Office for Community and Civic Engagement will develop a volunteer-based life skills development curriculum to be implemented in high schools across the county.
Additional initiatives from the newly established Community and Wellness Institute of Southeastern NC will include a speaker series, the expansion of academic service-learning opportunities, and the expansion of UNC Pembroke’s CARE Resource Center
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.9 million members, including approximately 1.1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.
About UNC Pembroke:
Founded in 1887 as a normal school to train American Indian teachers, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) has a total enrollment of more than 7,100 students in 41 undergraduate and 17 graduate degree programs. Small class sizes and world-class faculty define UNCP’s personal approach to education. UNC Pembroke is a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina System. Connect with UNC Pembroke on social media or online at uncp.edu to learn how the university is Changing Lives Through Education.
*Any reference in this press release to any person, organization, activity, or services related to North Carolina Medicaid does not constitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.