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Indiana aims to combat loneliness with grants for social connection programs in rural communities

A string of stuffed animals hangs on a fence, with a sign below them that has a blue heart and the words "In This Together"
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
OCRA's Building Socially Connected Communities program hopes to address what’s becoming a loneliness epidemic.

Indiana wants to foster better social connections in rural communities through a new grant program.

The Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Building Socially Connected Communities program hopes to address what’s becoming a loneliness epidemic.

OCRA Executive Director Duke Bennett said a recent U.S. Surgeon General advisory reported half of American adults report experiencing loneliness.

“And so … what could we do to help create an environment in communities that would help bring people together, give them a social outlet, something to get involved in or do?” Bennett said.

The program is divided into “quick action” projects — what Bennett said could be a book event or a guest speaker — and bigger amounts for “large impact” projects, longer term activities.

“We’ve got some funds available that might help some communities to partner alongside their local mental health providers or their local arts organization or their local chamber, their local United Way,” Bennett said.

READ MORE: Report: Older women face more financial burdens, social isolation than men

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“Quick action” grants will be between $1,000 and $5,000, while “large impact” grants will be between $5,001 and $50,000.” Local communities must match their grant amounts.

The total amount of funding is $200,000, using existing state rural development funds.

The grant applications open June 3.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.