Cleveland, OH,
08:20 AM

SAFE Project Awarded $85,000 National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Largest Award Given in Ohio

MetroHealth’s innovative SAFE Project (Students Are Free to Express) has received an $85,000 Research Grant in the Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) – the largest award presented by the NEA in Ohio.

The SAFE Project is an arts-based, psychologically informed, primary prevention curriculum that brings professional teaching artists into the classroom. It targets urban youth exposed to trauma and toxic stress. The NEA grant will be used to evaluate the impact of an arts-based prevention program promoting resiliency and stress responsiveness among teens who have experienced community or personal trauma.

Established in 2018, the project is a collaboration between MetroHealth's School Health Program, Center for Arts in Health and arts partners. More than 1,500 Cleveland Metropolitan School District Students from pre-kindergarten through first grade and 9th through 11th grade have participated in SAFE programming including, spoken word poetry, music, visual art, and dance.​

“We’re thrilled with the news of being selected for this research grant from the NEA,” said Linda Jackson, Director, Arts in Health. “We believe SAFE is benefitting our children; this funding will help us to establish SAFE as an evidence-based program.” In recent months, several local family foundations and the Ohio Arts Council have contributed new funding for SAFE Project programming. “We’re grateful for the response and support the SAFE Project is receiving.”

The SAFE Project was developed in response to the results of a mental health screening pilot conducted by MetroHealth’s School Health Program. Students at two urban Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) high schools were evaluated for symptoms related to substance abuse, anxiety, and depression/suicidality. Symptom rates were higher than anticipated. Students at one high school screened 26% for depression, 26% for anxiety, 32% for both, 25% had considered suicide and 16% had a past suicide attempt.

Subsequent screenings at the second school revealed even higher numbers. MetroHealth’s Center for Arts in Health and School Health Program initiated the SAFE Project to address some of the effects of chronic, complex, and toxic stress and trauma experienced by these students.

Local area arts organizations involved in the SAFE Project with MetroHealth include Kulture Kids, Inlet Dance Theatre, Arts Impact and FIG/Future Ink Graphics.

For more information about MetroHealth’s Arts in Health program, visit

About The MetroHealth System

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through five hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers. Each day, our nearly 9,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable healthcare — through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services — that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit