A $61 million foundation devoted to improving health in Howard County has identified two groups -- the young and the old -- on which it plans to focus its efforts this year, foundation officials said yesterday.
Richard M. Krieg, president and chief executive officer of the Horizon Foundation -- formerly the Howard County Community Health Foundation -- told the five-member County Council that its "proactive" grants will be awarded in the areas of adolescent substance abuse and the health of the elderly.
"It's interesting that we're interested in both ends of the spectrum," said Krieg, who served previously as health commissioner of Chicago and executive director of that city's Institute of Metropolitan Affairs."These issues jump off the page in terms of changing demographics."
The foundation also will provide "responsive" grants to a variety of community health organizations -- about 50 have applied -- and "capacity building" grants to those nonprofit or philanthropic groups with missions compatible with Horizon's.
Krieg said the foundation will determine next month and in November to whom the money -- an estimated $1 million this year, and several million beginning next year -- will be awarded.
In focusing on aged residents, foundation officials hope to prolong the time the elderly can remain in their homes, as opposed to nursing care facilities. The county's elderly population is expected to triple from 13,900 to 47,000 between 1995 and 2020.
Horizon officials are considering funding a countywide study of the elderly, Krieg said, building on a similar survey conducted recently by the Columbia Association in that community.
Statistics show that Howard County is a relatively healthy place, in part because of its affluence. But Richard G. McCauley, chairman of Horizon's board of directors, told County Council members that more than 15,000 residents are without health insurance, making lack of coverage the county's top problem.
"This is a real concern on our part," he said.
McCauley and Krieg have been crisscrossing the county, meeting with community groups to identify local problems and issues that residents hope the foundation will address.
Those who need the most help are "in pockets and places that no one in the county today could tell you where they are," said McCauley.
The Horizon Foundation was created as a result of the July 1998 merger of Howard County General Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medicine. It is by far the county's wealthiest foundation and one of the 20 largest in the Baltimore region.
Foundation officials said they anticipate working closely with county government, nonprofits and similar organizations focused on public health.