A person with disabilities using a wheelchair is with a thre other people. They are on a sidewalk in a city.

The Arc and United Health Foundation Launch $2.5M Partnership to Tackle Mental Health Crisis for People With Disabilities

The partnership will provide $100,000 to 10 communities to expand mental health support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, and WASHINGTON, DC – The United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), has awarded The Arc of the United States a three-year, $2.5 million grant to improve mental health care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Up to 40% of people with IDD have co-occurring mental health conditions, and this critical funding will help address their unmet mental health needs.

Currently, only 1 in 10 children and adolescents with IDD and mental health disorders receive specialized services. Additionally, people with disabilities report 3 times more suicidal ideation compared to those without disabilities, and adults with disabilities are 3.5 times more likely to experience frequent mental distress. These statistics highlight the need for training and awareness to ensure providers and caregivers are equipped to support the mental health needs of people with disabilities.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities face barriers from the moment they are born, which can have a direct impact on their mental health,” said Katy Neas, CEO of The Arc of the United States. “But too often, their mental health needs are going unmet due to stigma, lack of training, and biases. This generous investment by the United Health Foundation gives us a path to tackle this mental health crisis head-on by providing critical training to all who interact with our community—medical professionals, caregivers, first responders, educators, families, and more. Let’s work together to improve coordination of care, raise awareness, and ensure everyone’s mental health needs are supported.”

The partnership will deploy $100,000 in direct grants to 10 chapters of The Arc nationwide to build comprehensive local solutions tailored to people with IDD. This includes expanding access to quality mental health care services, improving coordination between disability and health systems, training over 2,000 providers and caregivers to recognize mental health needs in people with IDD, and launching public awareness campaigns to counteract stigma and misconceptions.

The 10 chapters receiving grants are: The Arc of Arizona, The Arc of Loudoun (VA), The Arc of Macomb County (MI), The Arc of Mississippi, The Arc of Oklahoma, The Arc Oregon, The Arc Prince George’s County (MD), The Arc Rhode Island, St. Louis Arc (MO) and Sertoma Star Services (IL).

“When we root ourselves in empathy and build alongside those with lived experiences, pretty powerful things begin to take shape,” said Dan Schumacher, executive vice president, UnitedHealth Group, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the United Health Foundation and as the executive sponsor of UnitedHealth Group’s disability inclusion employee resource group. “The United Health Foundation is committed to building strong partnerships and providing resources to address the needs of our communities. Together with The Arc, we’re excited to see the impact this work has on providers, caregivers and the people they serve.”

A key component of the grant is partnering with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing to adapt its evidence-based Mental Health First Aid program with information on IDD. The training teaches how to identify and respond to signs of mental illness and substance disorders. As the Council notes, “Most of us would know how to help someone having a heart attack, but too few know how to respond if someone was having a panic attack or showing signs of substance abuse. Mental Health First Aid takes the fear out of starting these conversations.”

Over three years, the United Health Foundation grant will help train caregivers, health care professionals, first responders, educators, and family members to recognize the mental health needs of people with IDD and decrease the number of mental health crisis incidents experienced by this population. The partnership will also provide mental health resources directly to people with IDD through the participating chapters to help them recognize and communicate their own needs. This is vital for individuals, and also families as research shows the mental well-being of parents of children with IDD is strongly influenced by the severity of their child’s co-occurring mental health conditions.


About The Arc of the United States: The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy, and other diagnoses. Founded in 1950 by parents who believed their children with IDD deserved more, The Arc is now a network of nearly 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. Through the decades, The Arc has been at the forefront of advances in disability rights and supports. There are over 7 million people with IDD in the United States, which encompasses over 100 different diagnoses. Visit www.thearc.org or follow us @TheArcUS to learn more.

About the United Health Foundation: Through collaboration with community partners, grants, and outreach efforts, the United Health Foundation works to improve the health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce, and enhance the well-being of local communities. The United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. To date, the United Health Foundation has committed nearly $800 million to programs and communities around the world, including a $100 million commitment to help diversify the health workforce. To learn more, visit UnitedHealthFoundation.org.

Media Contacts:
Tony Marusic
UnitedHealth Group

Jackie Dilworth
The Arc of the United States