Longtime Orange County business leaders Douglas Corbin and Cary Hyden have several things in common.
The two friends, who met through their work with the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, both retired from their respective careers this year—Corbin as an executive with the hospital’s fundraising arm and Hyden from his nearly three-decade run as a leading partner for law firm Latham & Watkins LLP.
The two have also taken interest in a pressing healthcare issue that’s growing in prevalence in and outside of Orange County: youth mental health.
Corbin and Hyden are looking to do something about that through Omada Foundation for Children, a Laguna Beach-based nonprofit they launched this month, around the same time as World Mental Health Day.
Mental health is the top pediatric safety concern in the United States, according to a new report from patient safety and research firm ECRI.
The pair are aiming to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to focus on three main pillars: education, awareness and increasing resources for pediatric hospitals across the country.
They have already garnered the interest of several partners in and outside of Orange County, including Latham & Watkins, the Motion Picture Television Fund Foundation and Yorba Linda’s RLM Events.
Corbin, who had seen the prevalence of the mental health crisis through his personal and professional life, approached Hyden earlier this year with the idea of starting an organization dedicated to decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health and increasing resources for children suffering from it.
“I really didn’t have to recruit Cary, he raised his hand,” Corbin said.
Hyden previously served as chair of the CHOC Foundation Board of Directors and will become chairman of the board for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire at the start of next year.
“The cause of helping children has always pulled at my heartstrings,” Hyden said.
Omada—the Greek word for team—is currently seeking a 501(c)(3) designation with help from Latham & Watkins, which is helping get the organization off the ground.
The effort starts in Omada’s backyard, with initial funds expected to help CHOC increase its mental health programming.
“We are not only dedicated to enhancing awareness around the pediatric mental health crisis in our country but to also help generate the financial resources needed to adequately address this critically important issue,” Corbin said.
“When the latest statistics show 1 in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 8 have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and 22% of adolescents have seriously considered suicide, we know the problem is out of control and something has to be done about it.”
Corbin is an experienced fundraiser. After working as the director of development for Western Medical Centers and as the assistant vice chancellor for state and gift planning for Pepperdine, he started Paragon Charitable Services Group, which consulted nonprofits on their giving efforts, including The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Vanguard University.
His journey with CHOC began in 2007 as a consultant for the foundation before joining full time in 2016. He served as chief development officer for the foundation from 2018 until June of this year.
Hyden’s initial experience with CHOC is a personal one—three of his four children were treated at the Orange hospital after being born prematurely.
Omada is an organization separate from CHOC, though the hospital “greatly inspired our vision,” according to Corbin.
“Cary and I had a front-row seat in watching CHOC—led by CEO Kimberly Cripe—leading the charge and launching a pediatric mental health program,” Corbin said.
In 2015, CHOC announced a $27 million mental health initiative that included an 18-bed psychiatric unit and expanded outpatient mental health services for children. Orange County previously did not have psychiatric beds for children under 12.
Mental health has become a growing initiative for CHOC in the years since.
The organization last year received $32 million in donations of $1 million or more each; half of the 14 largest gifts it received were focused on mental health support.
“Mental health is a huge focus for CHOC moving forward concerning the current pandemic in terms of mental health for adolescents and young adults,” Kara Kipp, associate chief development officer of the CHOC Foundation, previously told the Business Journal.
CHOC has a multidisciplinary team of specialists for children and teens that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers for mental health issues.
“There’s still a lack of awareness surrounding mental health challenges for children,” Corbin said. “We are committed to enhancing awareness, reducing the stigma and provide funding to organizations who are doing what they can to take care of children’s well-being.”
Hollywood may play a role in those goals.
Omada has enlisted the support of former Motion Picture Television Fund Foundation CEO Ken Scherer to help increase awareness, which may include tapping celebrities as spokespeople for the organization.
Omada has also brought on the president of RLM Events, Jim Pari, to assist with fundraising efforts. The group is in the early stages of planning a wide-scale, local event to raise both awareness and funds.
Funds will be used for additional awareness and education efforts, though a bulk of proceeds raised will be given to hospitals for pediatric mental health programs.
“We will have a set of requirements that pediatric hospitals will need to meet in order to get funding, and we’re also aiming to strike up a joint venture with a national pediatric hospital organization to best deploy funds,” Hyden said.
Omada is also aiming to launch a scholarship program “for those interested in making a profession out of helping children,” according to Hyden.
“Part of why pediatric hospitals don’t have the resources available to treat mental health issues is a lack of doctors and therapists,” Hyden said.
Omada’s vision statement is to create a united world where every child and adolescent in need of mental health series has unrestricted access to quality care.
“We are using our collective talents to make an impact,” Corbin said.