The Natrona Collective Health Trust (NCHT) was created in October 2020 after the sale of our community’s standalone nonprofit hospital to a regional hospital system. As Wyoming’s first health conversion foundation, NCHT uses trust-based philanthropy and systems change advocacy to advance the mental well-being of our community’s young people. During an extensive strategic planning process, we found that at both our community and state levels, there is insufficient infrastructure to address mental and behavioral health needs, which perpetuates health disparities and high incidences of childhood trauma.

Challenges with mental and behavioral health manifest themselves in profoundly harmful ways. Wyoming ranks number one in the United States for suicide deaths at double the national average rate (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 2021). Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death in Wyoming; however, it is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-24 (Drapeau and McIntosh 2020).

Knowing that we needed to deploy a trust-based approach using the expertise of those closest to these challenges, we assembled a diverse group of youth ages 14-17 and launched a participatory grantmaking (PGM) program in the fall of 2022. The youth participating in the NCHT program ultimately chose to support organizations that assist youth in overcoming addiction and homelessness, preventing suicide, combating domestic violence, and meeting mental health needs. In May 2023, they granted nearly $240,000 of NCHT funds to these organizations for general operating support.

With a full program cycle in our rear-view mirror, we’ve captured some lessons learned for our participatory grantmaking road ahead. These include:

  • Maintain a balance between structure and flexibility
  • Broaden the definition of impact
  • Maximize organizational resources

Read the full article about youth-led participatory grantmaking by Beth Worthen at Grantmakers in Health.