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Blocker Foundation awards $425,000 grant to The Up Center


Friday, December 2, 2022  

Blocker Foundation awards $425,000 grant to The Up Center for the development of a Center of Excellence Behavioral Workforce Initiative to meet demand for licensed mental health professionals

SUFFOLK, VA – November 9, 2022 – Today The Up Center announced a grant award of $425,000 from The Blocker Foundation to address the increasing and developing mental health needs of our community.  The grant will fund a Center of Excellence Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative in response to the behavioral health workforce gap in South Hampton Roads. The workforce initiative will be achieved through a collaboration between The Up Center, local colleges and universities, and other human services organizations.

This four-year initiative will produce five diversely trained licensed clinicians who will provide increased access to behavioral health treatment during their residency, with the goal of building a network of training and employment services for both clinicians and employers. This includes providing mental health and substance use disorder counseling to 1,200 individuals within community areas that have unique challenges to access these services.

“Support from community partners like The Blocker Foundation allows us to create innovative approaches to solve current problems,” said Tina Gill, President & CEO of The Up Center. “Over the last several years, The Up Center has significantly increased its mental health service delivery and we expect the need to increase. Our community needs more licensed mental health professionals to support children, couples, and families as their needs continue to evolve. We thank The Blocker Foundation for recognizing and supporting the need to expand the workforce in order to better respond to mental health needs in Hampton Roads.”

“Improving access to quality mental health care providers, especially in underserved communities, is a significant need in our community,” said Whitney Saunders, President and CEO of The Blocker Foundation.  “We are proud to partner with the Up Center to educate and train the next generation of mental health counselors, bringing these critical resources to our area.  We are encouraged by its success in delivering much needed mental health services during difficult pandemic conditions and its commitment to support community mental health needs in the years to come.”


The Up Center, headquartered in Norfolk, VA, provides more than 20 critical prevention, intervention and support services for children and families in our community, including mental health counseling, parenting education and support, youth mentoring, foster care and adoption, housing and financial counseling, and services for people with disabilities. Founded in 1883, The Up Center is the region’s oldest and largest nonprofit family services agency. Today, The Up Center operates five locations throughout South Hampton Roads and impacts over 10,000 people in our community every year by providing evidenced-based services and programs that work.  


The Blocker Foundation was founded in 1982 by S. Frank Blocker, Jr., who passed away in 2020. The Foundation carries on Frank Blocker’s support of numerous nonprofit organizations that promote a safe, healthy, inclusive community for all the resident of Hampton Roads. Its mission is to inspire, empower and support the greater Hampton Roads community and Eastern North Carolina to provide wholesome nourishment, safe shelter, educational opportunity, economic opportunity, and a healthy environment in which all can thrive.

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