NEW YORK — Community-based organizations in New York are getting some extra help dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in underserved communities. In New York, 14 organizations are receiving a combined total of $1.3 million in Empowering Health grants funded by UnitedHealthcare.
According to Migdalia Vasquez, director of community relations and outreach for UnitedHealthcare in New York, the grants target areas driving the disproportionate health consequences of the current public health crisis in at-risk communities.
“We identified food insecurity, social isolation and behavioral health issues as the most urgent needs resulting from COVID-19,” she states.
The grants will help support food pantries, soup kitchens, counseling and mental health services in targeted communities. Several of the organizations receiving Empowering Health grants are focused on addressing the social and emotional health of children. Vasquez notes that the shutdown to bring the pandemic under control has had a major impact on young people.
“You’re seven or eight or 10 years old and all of a sudden, you’re forced to isolate,” she points out. “It’s a huge thing for children so we thought that it was important for us to connect resources to those organizations that are dealing with those issues.”
A recent study found that children and adolescents may be more likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety during enforced isolation and after it ends.
Vasquez says the goal of the Empowering Health grants is to expand access to care for uninsured individuals and underserved communities by addressing what she calls social determinants of health.
“Whether it’s homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse (or) any of these behavioral health issues have an impact on the health of our members,” she states. “And in order for us to make an impact on our communities, we have to address those social determinants.”
This month, UnitedHealthcare announced Empowering Health grants totaling $12.3 million across 21 states.