Press Releases

Friday, March 24, 2023

#Wearehope brings mental health events and resources to community

  • Highmark BCBSWNY convenes and funds collaboration of mental health partners to address needs in wake of all Buffaly has endured

Buffalo, N.Y. (March 24, 2023)Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York, in partnership with Mental Health Advocates and several behavioral health providers, has developed #weareHOPE, a collaborative effort to address the mental health needs of the community following multiple traumatic events in Buffalo.  

Following the December Blizzard, Highmark BCBSWNY engaged Mental Health Advocates to identify ways to support the mental health needs of the community.

Together, they brought seven organizations together to collaboratively develop a series of community initiatives that promote healing and mental health resources. Other partners include Spectrum Health Buffalo H.O.P.E program, Buffalo Urban League Buffalo H.O.P.E program, Hope Rises, Horizon Health Services, BestSelf Behavioral Health and the New York State Office of Mental Health.  

“With all that our community has endured in the last 10 months, we’ve seen how critical mental health services are through our support and interaction with the region’s mental health providers,” said Michael Ball, vice president, community affairs, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. “We knew that it would take a lot of collaboration to have a real impact. We’re grateful for our partners who have gone above and beyond to bring this important initiative to life.”

The series begins with A Community Day of Hope and Healing on Saturday, March 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Delavan Grider Community Center. All are welcome at the free, family-friendly event and can expect to participate in activities that promote mental wellness, plus they will learn about an array of resources to help set them up for future success. Refreshments, giveaways and a mural painting will highlight the event.

It continues Wednesday, March 29 with a public discussion about community trauma, featuring an impressive roster of community leaders. Panelists include:

The event is open to the public and will take place at Highmark BCBSWNY’s downtown headquarters from 3 to 5 p.m. Registration is required and can be accessed at

Lastly, the coalition of partners created a mental health resource guide for the community, which is also available on Mental Health Advocates website at

As the only health plan based in the City of Buffalo, these initiatives are part of HMBCBSWNY’s commitment to supporting the City’s emerging needs. $500,000 of the health plan’s $7 million annual community investment directly supported the blizzard relief efforts, as well as the May 14 mass shooting.

About Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York is a trade name of Highmark Western and Northeastern New York Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Since 1936, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York has helped millions of people lead healthier lives. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a full range of insured, self-insured, and government programs and services covering businesses, families, and individuals, as well as dental and vision plans and stop-loss coverage. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield employs more than 1,500 people and serves as a key economic driver in the region. As a community-based, not-for-profit health plan, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield contributes significantly to organizations that strengthen and enrich the health of the community.

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Amber Hartmann


    • Melissa Archer, PMHNP-BC, BSN, Chief Operating Officer, Buffalo Urban League
    • Amanda P. Budwine, LCSW-R, Director of Behavioral Health and Care Management, Jericho Road Community Health Center
    • Cameron Burns, Community Education and Outreach Coordinator, Crisis Services
    • Robert L. Cannata, MSW LCSW, Sr. Vice President of Business Development and Community Crisis Services, Spectrum Health & Human Services
    • Kelly D. Dumas, LCSW, Chief Operating Officer, BestSelf Behavioral Health, Inc
    • Vinnette Folkes, Coordinator of Community Based Services, Endeavor Health
    • Patrick Greene LMHC, Program Director, Horizon Health Services
    • Dr. Jennifer Lewis Johnson, Program Coordinator, Reimagine: I am The Change!, WNY Field Office of Mental Health
    • Sylvia Lane, MS, Director of Preventative Services, Say Yes to Education Buffalo
    • Mark O'Brien, Commissioner of Mental Health, Erie County Dept of Mental Health