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

The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.

The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, three-quarters of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center. 

As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.

Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.

The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.

For more information, visit