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Here’s how these nonprofits are trying to bridge health equity gaps in our region

Here’s how these nonprofits are trying to bridge health equity gaps in our region

Last year, Exelos Blue Cross Blue Shield awarded at least $30,000 each to seven local nonprofit organizations to begin or expand new efforts toward addressing racial, health, and rural disparities within the region.

“We know that our grassroots community organizations work tirelessly every day to improve health outcomes, and advance health equity,” said Gina Koehler, BCBS Vice President for Health Equity and Community Investments. She said the Health Equity Award grant was one way to ensure that people living in disadvantaged communities had access to quality health care.

“This is a place where our members live, it is a place where we live, and we have an obligation and a duty to ensure that all people can have that opportunity to lead a healthy life,” Koehler added.

The award recipients underwent a robust application process and were selected by committees that consider community health needs. One awardee, Teen Empowerment, used the money to expand the youth organization’s program to more neighborhoods.

“There aren’t many safe places here in Rochester [for youth]Getting that within empowering teens is very powerful, said Gala Jones, program coordinator for the East Side Facility. She said some of the funding has been used to expand their reach by hiring more young people and planning more locations.

Raquel Stephen

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WXXI News

Gail Berks and Ebony Stubbs represent BIPOC PEEEEK

The Adolescent Empowerment Program has engaged nearly 900 young people through its focus on mental health and its impact on trauma and violence. James Keegler, one of the event organizers, said that after COVID the organization began to see an influx of teens looking for resources.

“We were seeing the ramifications of young people staying at work, being online, not having that social interaction,” Keegler said. He said the funding has allowed the organization to re-establish itself in the community.

An organization that works with black, indigenous and people of color in mental health, BIPOC PEEEEK, a newer organization working with black, indigenous and people of color, has also received money. BIPOC PEEEEK used the grant money to expand outreach and marketing to move away from just volunteer work.

The organization focuses on erasing mental health stigma in communities of color, and improving mental health outcomes for marginalized groups.

“We want people to talk about it more. We’re trying to make sure that parents feel comfortable talking about mental health, and that they’re not hiding,” said Jill Birx, project coordinator at BIPOC.

Over the past several months, the program has reached more than 1,000 people through hands-on participation and educational activities.

Donna Johnson.  png

Raquel Stephen

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WXXI News

Donna Johnson is the Finger Lakes Community Action Program Coordinator, an affiliate of the Wayne County Action Program,

Reaching people in rural areas has also been a focus of the Exelos BCBS programme. Finger Lakes Community Action, a subsidiary of Wayne County Action, used the award money to pilot a peer support program to expand access to people with physical, mental, or behavioral disabilities.

Program coordinator Donna Johnson said it was important for individuals with living experiences to become assistants, and the bulk of the money was used to provide them with appropriate training.

“It is a very slippery slope to pretend to be a consultant when you are not,” she said. “this is [funding] It gives us what we need to make sure that the people who work through our agency are supported with training and supervision.”

Johnsons said her organization has since received additional funding from EXICUS BCBS to help fill the financial gaps associated with the training process.

Other organizations that have received awards are: Empire Justice Center; Jabal Al Amal Family Center; National Witness Project; YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County, Einon Missionary Baptist Church and Coordinated Care Services, Inc.



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