Frances Fisher and the Merrell Family Foundation Establish Mental and Behavioral Health Professions Scholarship Funds at Palm Health Foundation

Donors and foundation seek increased access to
mental and behavioral health services in Palm Beach County


West Palm Beach, Fla.Palm Health Foundation, Palm Beach County’s community foundation for health, announced the establishment of two new donor scholarship funds to encourage individuals to enter and advance in the mental and behavioral health professions fields. The Frances Fisher Scholarship Fund and John T. Merrell Scholarship Fund support Palm Health Foundation’s new initiative to advance brain health in Palm Beach County by providing needs-based financial support to those seeking bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work, psychology, clinical mental health counseling, school counseling and other focus areas.

According to Mental Health America’s 2021 report, “The State of Mental Health In America,” Florida ranks 48th in the nation for access to mental health care, which includes measures such as access to treatment and workforce availability. The National Alliance on Mental Illness approximates that 70% of the people who need mental-health treatment in Florida can’t get it.

Studies have shown that mental and behavioral health professional shortages impact suicide deaths. In Palm Beach County, as in all of Florida, suicide rates are higher than homicides, according to a 2019 report from the Florida Behavioral Health Association—a statistic on the rise due to COVID-19. Saving lives from suicide is especially meaningful to Jill Merrell of West Palm Beach, FL, who lost her husband John to mental illness. She and her family are channeling their grief into purpose through the establishment of the John T. Merrell Scholarship Fund at Palm Health Foundation.

“Our hope is to fund students who will become leaders in their fields, serve our community and society, and advance new technologies and innovations in the prevention and treatment of mental illness,” said Merrell. “We are confident Palm Health Foundation will steward our fund to honor John’s memory and work toward goals that are deeply personal to our family.”

Frances Fisher of Palm Beach, FL, sees advancing education in mental/behavioral health fields as an imperative of the Brain Health Innovation Fund at Palm Health Foundation where she serves as a trustee. “I am proud to support the creation of a new and needed resource to build our community’s mental and behavioral health workforce,” said Fisher. “My hope is to inspire students to embark or advance on a career, especially students of color as there is a deep need for more diversity in the field.”

Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of Palm Health Foundation is grateful to Fisher and Merrell for becoming the first to create funds for the new scholarships. “We are thankful to Frances and Jill for the opportunity to help them realize their philanthropic goals and bring equity to those most affected by a shortage of healthcare professionals— people of color, the elderly, and low income residents,” said McNamara. “We welcome more donors to help us do the same.” Individuals seeking to impact health in Palm Beach County through philanthropy may contact Carrie Browne, director of stewardship and strategic partnerships at or 561-837-2281.

Individuals wishing to apply for mental and behavioral health scholarships may visit the George Snow Scholarship Fund website at Applicants must be residents of Palm Beach, Broward or Martin County, Florida, and apply by the February 1, 2021 deadline. Needs-based nursing scholarships are also available to nurses in undergraduate, graduate and doctorate programs to aid in building a highly skilled healthcare workforce. For more information, please contact Leslie Cornwell at, 561-347-6799, or Channon Ellwood at, 561-347-6799 at the George Snow Scholarship Fund.


About Palm Health Foundation 
Palm Health Foundation is Palm Beach County’s community foundation for health. With the support of donors and a focus on results, the foundation builds strong community partnerships, respects diverse opinions, advocates for its most vulnerable neighbors and inspires innovative solutions to lead change for better health now and for generations to come. The foundation supports health equity for Palm Beach County residents of all backgrounds, heritage, education, incomes and states of well-being. Palm Health Foundation has invested more than $85 million in Palm Beach County health since 2001. For more information about Palm Health Foundation, visit or call (561) 833-6333.