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Connecticut Health Foundation injects $1.6M into cities’ efforts to bolster ranks of community health workers

Hartford Courant logo Hartford Courant 10/1/2020 By Nicholas Rondinone, Hartford Courant
a person wearing a blue hat: Bridgeport, CT - 6/23/20 - Optimus Healthcare professionals conduct COVID-19 testing at Mount Aery Baptist Church Tuesday morning © Photo by Brad Horrigan | bhorrigan@courant.com/Hartford Courant/TNS Bridgeport, CT - 6/23/20 - Optimus Healthcare professionals conduct COVID-19 testing at Mount Aery Baptist Church Tuesday morning

The Connecticut Health Foundation announced an infusion of $1.6 million in grants Thursday to help several cities increase their numbers of community health workers by more than two dozen in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The grants, given in partnership with the Connecticut COVID-19 Charity Connection, earmark substantial funding for municipalities in an effort to address the impact the pandemic has on people of color, officials said.

The announced funding comes ahead of the third phase of the state’s reopening plan, which increases capacity at restaurants, indoor and outdoor performance venues and houses of worship. Connecticut, in recent days, has seen an uptick in its rate of positive coronavirus tests and hospitalizations associated with the virus.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately affect people of color in Connecticut, we recognize the importance of addressing basic needs and ensuring that communities have the support needed to help people stay safe and healthy,” Tiffany Donelson, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, said, in a written statement. “It is especially important to make sure that people receive information and support from those they trust, and often those are from community-based organizations and community health workers.”

Each city that will receive grant money from the foundation has outlined plans to use new staff to better connect with the community.

The foundation said the specific grants are:

$200,000 to Bridgeport’s Department of Health and Social Services to hire 12 community health workers and two managers to work on education involving COVID-19 prevention strategies.

$125,000 to Danbury’s Department of Health and Human Services to establish a team focused on vaccination clinics, contact tracing, outreach and emergency response.

$849,897 to Hartford’s Department of Health and Human Services to work in concert with East Hartford’s Health Department and the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District to hire 20 community health workers that will help families, provide education and assist with testing access.

$229,179 to Norwalk’s Health Department to hire six health workers to assist with contact tracing, outreach and education.

$214,500 to Stamford’s city government to hire five community health workers that will help those who have tested positive for COVID-19, those who are quarantined and their family members.

Hartford officials said Thursday that the grant from the foundation was part of $1.4 million the city has received in the past few months to focus efforts on increased outreach, bolstering access to testing and increased flu vaccination in the city and the region.

Speaking to the Connecticut Health Foundation grant, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said: “This is a regional effort. I am particularly proud of the fact this is a regional effort, and incredibly grateful to the Connecticut Health Foundation for this really significant contribution to boosting our outreach capability not just here in Hartford but in the Hartford region. We know that this virus does not know town boundaries anymore than it knows state or national boundaries. We know we’ve got to work together.”

The $1.4 million in grants are coupled with more $650,000 that has been given to assist community health centers earlier this year, foundation officials said.

Nicholas Rondinone can be reached at nrondinone@courant.com.

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