Community Health Centers are a proven model of resilience in public health crises. They have battled H1N1, HIV-AIDS and even man-made disasters like the opioid addiction crisis. COVID-19 has been a challenge like no other. Early on in the global pandemic health centers were fighting the spread of the deadly virus with a dwindling arsenal of supplies and resources, such as protective gear, masks and testing kits, and funds to purchase needed supplies, such as wipes and sanitzers. That’s when Direct Relief stepped in.
Direct Relief established the Covid-19 Fund for Community Health six weeks ago, issuing $27.9 million in grants to 519 health centers across the United States. The funds were collected from a groundswell of supporters, including individuals and corporate leaders, a cross-section of leading artists — including Sean “Diddy” Combs and professional athletes. We estimate that the fund comprises the largest private donation health centers have received since they sprang into existence 55 years ago as part of the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty.
The funds make an enormous difference for centers like Lorain County Health & Dentistry in northeast Ohio, which suffered a significant financial setback after the state ordered that all dental services close except for emergency care during the pandemic. “Direct Relief stepped up when we needed them most. We are thankful for their support,” said Todd Tilberg, LCH&D board chairman told the local newspaper, The Morning Journal.
North End Waterfront Health in Boston, MA, is using the emergency grant funds to maintain staffing levels and capacity as it continues to respond to COVID-19.
Maria Gomez, President and CEO of Mary’s Center in Washington, D.C. , announced in a press release that “the funds will support increased purchase of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing kits for uninsured immigrant populations, as well as new technology to jumpstart our teledental services and cleaning supplies for our health centers.”
At health centers in rural and urban areas across the U.S., all struggling in one way or another to adjust and respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the funds are a lifeline at time when health centers face an uncertain future.
“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 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.”
This is far from the first time Direct Relief has brought much-needed relief and resources to Community Health Centers. Early on in the COVID pandemic, Direct Relief bolstered the dwindling supply of masks and other PPE to struggling health centers in the hot zones. In fact, over the course of the past 15 years, when disasters have visited health center communities — a tornado, fire or hurricane — Direct Relief has provided the necessary tools to health centers so they can respond.
When everything else right now seems uncertain and broken, we are grateful for our friends at Direct Relief.
You can read more about the COVID-19 Fund for Community Health here.