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Direct Relief Aids Community Health Centers With $27.9 Million in Grants

Outpouring of support to boost America’s nonprofit healthcare safety-net enables largest donation in 55-Year History of Community Health Center Program



Zufall Health Center staff conduct Covid-19 tests in a Direct Relief-provided medical tent. Zufall is among the 519 health centers to receive a grant through Direct Relief’s Covid-19 Fund for Community Health. (photo courtesy Zufall Health Center)

Six weeks after establishing the Covid-19 Fund for Community Health, Direct Relief has issued $27.9 million in grants to 519 nonprofit community health centers across the United States on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic, serving people and places disproportionately affected and at risk.

The financial support from Direct Relief aims to safeguard healthcare workers as they stretch to maintain essential health services while also playing critical public-health roles in the Covid-19 response within their communities.

A groundswell of public support from thousands of individuals, corporate leaders, and a cross-section of leading artists and professional athletes provided the financial resources that were deployed rapidly to the safety-net health centers.

A lead contribution of $10 million from 3M anchored the Covid-19 fund, with other extraordinary, spontaneous support coming from corporate leaders including Jack Dorsey and artists including Sean “Diddy” Combs, among others.

According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, the $27.9 million in grants announced today comprise the largest private donation received by Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in the 55 years since the first community health centers were established in 1965 as part of the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty.

“We are grateful for this critical and immediate support as Community Health Centers work hard to keep communities safe during an unprecedented pandemic,” said Tom Van Coverden, President & CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “We are also deeply appreciative of our longstanding partnership with Direct Relief in these uncertain times and their efforts to ensure that health centers confronting multiple challenges in underserved communities have the resources when and where they need them. We know that many donors and contributors have helped to make this fund possible, and we further extend our appreciation to all of them.”

More than 29 million of the country’s most vulnerable residents rely on local nonprofit community health centers for health care. FQHCs serve 1 in 11 U.S. residents, including 1 in 3 individuals living in poverty, 1 in 5 Medicaid beneficiaries, 1 in 5 rural Americans, and 1 in 9 children. Nationally, 63 percent of FQHC patients are members of ethnic and racial minority groups.

Direct Relief awarded individual grants of up to $50,000 to 513 FQHCs (full list available here) in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In addition, larger grants of up to $500,000 were made to six health centers that are in Covid-19 hot spots, have expanded activities related to Covid-19 care, and serve communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

The health centers include:

  • Baptist Community Health Services, New Orleans, LA—serves more than 20,000 patients, of whom 86% are racial or ethnic minorities. Baptist Community Health Services, an essential Covid-19 test provider in New Orleans for medically vulnerable patients, has diagnosed more than 10% of all Covid-19 patients who have been identified by FQHCs in the state of Louisiana. With two sites in the Lower 9th Ward, including the primary care point for Covid-19 symptomatic adults, Baptist Community Health has built deep trust within the community for its services. Funding will support new models of care, including telehealth, expansion of walk-up and drive-through Covid-19 testing, and additional behavioral health services.
  • Harbor Health Services, Mattapan, MA—serves 32,000 patients, of whom 42% are racial or ethnic minorities and 70% are low-income or uninsured. While facing a sharp drop in monthly revenue that forced it to furlough one-third of its staff, Harbor Health quickly mobilized telehealth to offer medical and behavioral health appointments and expand care options to prevent emergent acute illnesses. To address the need for accessible Covid-19 testing in the communities it serves, Harbor Health is working with the City of Boston to provide testing services at multiple locations. Harbor will use Direct Relief funds to expand telehealth, testing, and chronic disease care to members of the community in a service area stretching over 100 miles from Boston to Provincetown.
  • The Institute for Family Health, New York, NY—operates 32 delivery sites that serve 115,000 patients, of whom 72% are racial or ethnic minorities. The Institute for Family Health works in areas with some of the highest Covid-19 rates in the country, with 35% positive rate results for Covid-19 testing. Revenue has fallen dramatically during the past two months, causing concern for sustainability. Funding will help ensure that as many vulnerable individuals as possible have access to telehealth services to received continued care during this Covid-19 crisis.
  • Minnesota Community Care, St. Paul, MN— the largest nonprofit primary care provider in the state, serves over 38,000 patients annually, of whom 52% lack health insurance. To minimize the impact of Covid-19, the organization transformed its models of care to include drive-up screening and testing, drive-up pharmacy services, emergency dental services, and telehealth visits for primary care and behavioral health. The organization will use the funding to implement protections for staff and patients, increase the delivery of outreach services, support the expansion and refinement of telehealth services, and sustain the delivery of uncompensated care.
  • South Central Family Health Center, Los Angeles, CA—serves 22,000 patients, including 95% racial or ethnic minority patients, many of whom are front line workers. During the Covid-19 crisis, the proportion of uninsured patients has more than doubled, while the number of visits has dropped 55%, forcing the closure of four care sites. South Central transitioned from 0% to 60% telehealth visits within a few weeks. While testing has become more widespread, transportation remains a barrier to access. Funding from Direct Relief will support health worker safety, including PPE procurement, training, and physical building modifications, and will support Covid-19 drive-through testing.
  • Zufall Health Center, Dover, NJ—serves 40,000 patients, including a large Latino population and many migrant workers. While many clinics and private practices have shut down, Zufall has remained open to serve its patients and those who have recently lost health insurance. Zufall shifted rapidly to telemedicine and is offering 8,000 telemedicine visits per month. More than half of its patients are uninsured and not eligible for Medicaid. Funds from Direct Relief will help Zufall continue providing care to patients, expand testing capability, offer remote home monitoring, and expand outreach to migrant workers.

“For Direct Relief, it’s profoundly inspiring to see the depth of concern and uncommon generosity from so many people of all backgrounds in our country — and a high privilege to connect those kind acts directly to the people and communities who need them most during this difficult, scary time,” said Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief President and CEO. “A pandemic puts everyone at risk, but some more so than others. The financial support here is so urgently needed to address critical health needs for people and communities most at risk, but the fact that the money came from so many people and reflects their concern and simple desire to help is a very powerful message and boost, too.”

In addition to community health centers, the Covid-19 Fund for Community Health is supporting free and charitable clinics and pharmacies that operate 1,400 service locations and serve 2 million patients who are among the most vulnerable members of U.S. society. The fund has donated an additional $1 million to the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, building on the $1 million donated earlier in April.

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