Foundation Works to Engage Diverse Groups In Improving Health System


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The Connecticut Health Foundation’s (CT Health) board of directors recently awarded $350,000 to four nonprofit organizations throughout the state to increase the diversity of consumers participating in health reform implementation and advocacy.
“The foundation recognizes that historically, health policy decisions have not always been influenced by those most affected by inadequate health care, particularly people of color,” says Patricia Baker, president and CEO of CT Health. “But today, funders, state officials, and advocates committed to health equity recognize the need for including people of color in reforming the health care system.”
“These grants demonstrate how seriously CT Health takes issues of equity, inclusion and fairness,” Baker said.
Led by executives and/or boards of color, the organizations selected to receive grants under CT Health’s one-year initiative, Diverse Advocacy and Consumer Engagement in Health Reform, bring a unique set of skills, community relationships, and knowledge of the needs and preferences of consumers affected by inequities. The four organizations were selected as part of a competitive request for proposal (RFP) selection process.
The grantees  will focus on health coverage and care access, navigation, and the creation of feedback loops that continuously improve the consumer experience of health reform. Participating in this grant program affords the organizations and their partners the opportunity to shape the next phase of health reform with the goal of expanding health equity.
African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities, Inc. (AFCAMP) (Hartford), was awarded a $25,000 grant to implement a health access and enrollment training program that promotes health literacy, advocacy and a stronger consumer voice for people of color.
“We appreciate the opportunity to build upon our long-standing advocacy role and recent participation in the Navigator and In-Person Assister Program during Access Health CT’s first open enrollment period,” says Ann Smith, executive director of AFCAMP.
The Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut (HASC) (New London with a regional focus) in partnership with the African American Health Council of Southeastern Connecticut, received a $50,000 grant to launch Reaching, Engaging, Amplifying, Partnering (REAP) to highlight and eliminate barriers to health insurance enrollment and full utilization of the health care system faced by Hispanic and Black residents.
“Only by working together with all of our partners to reach and engage our neighbors who lack health insurance can we successfully accomplish our mission to improve and expand the systems of coverage and care,” says Alejandro Melendez Cooper, director of the HASC.
Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council (GNEMSDC) (Bridgeport) was awarded a $48,750 grant to work with minority businesses and their employees to increase understanding of and participation in Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage options. In Connecticut, GNEMSDC works with 141 certified minority business enterprises (MBEs) to increase business opportunities.
“Health care insurance is something that distinguishes firms in their ability to recruit and retain talent,” said Dr. Fred McKinney, president and CEO of GNEMSDC. “This program benefits minority businesses by making them more competitive, and it assists their employees and families in having more control over large health care bills. The GNEMSDC is uniquely positioned to spread the word about the ACA to a population of businesses and their employees that have historically been underinsured or uninsured.”
Hispanic Federation (Hartford with statewide focus) was awarded $50,000 to partner with member organizations and Hispanic consumers to support the Bridgeport Health Advocacy Initiative to shape and monitor the implementation of an integrated, streamlined, and consumer friendly “No Wrong Door” health insurance eligibility and enrollment system.
“We are proud to share with the Connecticut Health Foundation a commitment to creating more access to better quality health care for underserved communities across Connecticut,” said Ingrid Alvarez, state director of the Hispanic Federation.
Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition (Bridgeport)was awarded a one-year $25,000 grant to assist uninsured residents with enrollment in health insurance coverage and to work with health and human service organizations to gather feedback from the newly insured about issues they encounter with health care access and insurance coverage.
Community Health Center Association of Connecticut (Wethersfield with statewide focus)was awarded a one-year $50,000 grant to assess the current levels of integration of primary care, oral health and behavioral health care at 12 of its member Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
Connecticut State Medical Society (New Haven with statewide focus) was awarded a one-year $76,625 grant for an initiative to reduce racial and ethnic inequities in 30-day hospital readmission rates. The initiative will be primarily focused on two conditions – uncomplicated childbirth and joint replacement surgery.
Connecticut Legal Services Collaborative (New Haven with statewide focus) via fiscal sponsorship from New Haven Legal Assistance Association (NHLAA) was awarded a one-year $100,000 general operating support grant to promote and protect access to public health care benefits as they evolve with the ACA through direct client representation, professional education, and systems advocacy. Additional collaborators include the Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, and the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut.
Optimus Health Care (Bridgeport) was awarded a 15-month $100,000 grant tolaunch a pilot program to integrate telehealth and workforce development into a new model of team based care delivery. The project, in partnership with Connecticut Appleseed, Norwalk Community College and WorkSource Partners, seeks to expand the role of medical assistants in supporting patients’ chronic disease management at two Optimus sites in Bridgeport.


Community Health Center Association of Connecticut (Wethersfield with statewide focus) was awarded $10,000 to gather experiences and lessons from certified application counselors at community health centers across the state regarding health insurance outreach and enrollment in order to improve the effectiveness of the upcoming enrollment period.
Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative (Hartford) was awarded a $25,000 grant to support the startup of Open Communities Alliance, a civil rights organization that promotes housing integration as a means of eliminating racial and ethnic housing disparities, which are linked to health disparities.
The Legacy Foundation (formerly the Omega Foundation of Hartford, Inc.) (Avon with Hartford focus) was awarded a $10,000 grant toexecute The Black Men’s Health Project, which focuses on creating healthier black men by hosting educational symposia and events in areas heavily populated with black men.
The Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health) is the state’s largest independent health philanthropy dedicated to improving lives by changing health systems. Since it was established in July 1999, the foundation has supported innovative grantmaking, public policy research, technical assistance and convening to achieve its mission – to improve the health of the people of Connecticut.   Over the past 15 years, CT Health has awarded grants totaling $52.98 million in 45 cities and towns throughout the state.
In 2013, CT Health announced a five-year strategic shift that makes expanding health equity its central focus.  For CT Health, health equity means helping more people gain access to better care, especially people of color.  Better care includes physical, mental, and oral health.