Connie and Steve Ballmer Pledge $425 Million for Children’s Mental Health
Megabillionaires Connie and Steve Ballmer pledged more than $425 million to the University of Oregon to create an institute where the university’s researchers and experts in children’s behavioral and mental health will partner with Oregon’s public school systems, families, nonprofits, and state agencies to address the soaring mental health issues children and youths in the state are facing after two years of the pandemic, the university announced Tuesday.
The couple are giving the money through their Ballmer Group Philanthropy, a grantmaker they started in 2016 primarily to support economic mobility programs across that country with a special focus on programs in Los Angeles, Southeast Michigan, and Washington State, where the couple live. They also started focusing some of their grantmaking in recent years on mental health efforts. In 2021 the Ballmers awarded a set of grants totaling $38 million to groups addressing Washington State’s shortage of mental-health workers and to efforts to improve the state’s overwhelmed behavioral health-care system.
We're sorry. Something went wrong.
We are unable to fully display the content of this page.
The most likely cause of this is a content blocker on your computer or network.
If you continue to experience issues, please contact us at 202-466-1032 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The technology billionaires Steve and Connie Ballmer pledged more than $425 million to the University of Oregon to create an institute where the university’s researchers and experts in children’s behavioral and mental health will work with Oregon’s public school systems, families, nonprofits, and state agencies to tamp down the surge in mental-health issues children and youths in the state are facing after two years of the pandemic, the university announced Tuesday. The pledge is one of the biggest philanthropic gifts to back mental health announced in recent years.
The couple are giving the money through their Ballmer Group Philanthropy, a grant maker they started in 2016 primarily to support economic-mobility programs with a special focus on programs in Los Angeles, Southeast Michigan, and Washington State, where the couple live.
They also started focusing some of their grant making in recent years on mental-health efforts. In 2021, the Ballmers awarded a set of grants totaling $38 million to efforts to shore up Washington State’s shortage of mental-health workers and to improve the state’s overwhelmed behavioral health-care system.
The Ballmers are longtime donors to charity. They have given a total of $2.1 billion personally and through Ballmer Group Philanthropy, and with a net worth Forbes has estimated at nearly $95 billion, they are likely to continue giving big far into the future. They have appeared three times on the Chronicle’s annual Philanthropy 50 list of the biggest donors since 2014.
The Ballmers’ latest pledge is aimed squarely at the warning signs of poor behavioral and mental health that have become a serious issue facing many children and families not only in Oregon but throughout the country, especially as Covid-19 has increased the stress of many families who were already struggling with poverty and other systemic problems.
“Right now, the need for behavioral health services across our country is at critical levels, and there is an opportunity to strengthen and enhance the behavioral health system so that it is set up to address every child’s needs now and in the future,” said Connie Ballmer in a statement.
She said the most immediate need is for recruiting, educating, and certifying more people to help address children’s mental-health needs.
Ballmer and her husband decided to give the university the money to create the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health because they were impressed with the university’s “deep faculty expertise and working relationships with government agencies and schools and its sense of urgency” on the issue.
Connie Ballmer earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the university in 1984 and served on its Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2021. She worked in public relations and marketing for technology companies before founding the Ballmer Group Philanthropy with her husband, who served as CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014 and now owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.
The new institute will be based in Portland and will bring together experts from across the university to create and work with other entities to provide treatment programs that can be integrated into the lives of students in kindergarten through high school. It will focus its first efforts in partnership with Portland Public Schools.
“The global pandemic has only amplified the mental and behavioral health needs of students here in Portland and across the country,” said Portland Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero in a statement. “School districts are often ill-equipped to adequately address these barriers to learning. We have a responsibility to find innovative ways to support the holistic needs of our students and are excited for our ground-breaking partnership with the Ballmer Institute.”
Through the institute, the university will create a new undergraduate degree program (subject to Oregon state approval) and a certificate program to train a work force that is equipped to help children within schools and organizations. It will initially hire 20 new faculty members and will provide scholarships through a $100 million endowment to graduate a new and more diverse mental-health work force. Researchers will work on creating early detection, prevention, and treatments for children and their families and on speeding up the development and spread of new research and technologies.