RIDOH Announces New Health Equity Zones

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced that expanded support and funding to three new communities to establish Health Equity Zones. East Providence, Cranston, and Providence’s West End neighborhood were chosen through a competitive process that drew nearly 20 applicants from communities across the State. These new communities will share approximately $1.4 million in funding with seven existing Health Equity Zones receiving support to continue their work in local communities.

RIDOH’s Health Equity Zone initiative is an innovative, place-based approach that brings people together to build healthy, resilient communities across Rhode Island. The initiative is grounded in research that shows up to 80% of health outcomes are determined by factors outside clinical settings, such as access to affordable, healthy foods; high-quality education; employment opportunities; and safe neighborhoods. The model encourages and equips community members and partners to collaborate to address factors like these and create healthy places for people to live, learn, work, and play.

“We are thrilled to expand our Health Equity Zones initiative to additional Rhode Island communities,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. “With plans for strong mentorship from existing Health Equity Zones, these communities are taking the forces that shape their health and well-being into their own hands. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish over the next few years as we continue to lift up this initiative as a national model of how such an infrastructure led by community members can create the conditions needed for every person to thrive.”

Each successful application was submitted by a municipal or nonprofit, community-based organization that will serve as the “backbone agency” for the local Health Equity Zone. These agencies, which include East Bay Community Action Program, Comprehensive Community Action Plan, and West Elmwood Housing Corporation, will facilitate a community-led process to organize a collaborative of community partners, conduct a needs assessment, and implement a data-driven plan of action to address the obstacles to health and well-being in local neighborhoods. RIDOH will provide seed funding and support to ensure that communities ground their work in public health principles and best practices, so that measurable outcomes are reached and evaluated.

 

 

Rhode Island Foundation Awards $285,000 to Newport County Nonprofits

The Rhode Island Foundation’s Newport County Fund (NCF} offered grants of up $10,000 to 40 organizations in Newport County to develop new programs, to strengthen or expand established programs and for municipal planning or leadership. In making the funding decisions, the Foundation worked with an advisory committee comprised of residents from every community in Newport County. In total, $285,000 in grants were awarded.

“From protecting the environment to underwriting health and job readiness programs, we are fortunate to partner with organizations that are improving lives here in Newport County,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are thankful for the donors who make these partnerships possible.”

Awardees included Child & Family, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community CenterNewport Mental HealthAquidneck Community TableBaby StepsBooks are Wings, Boys and Girls Clubs of Newport CountyClean Ocean AccessDay One in Middletown, Girl Scouts of Southeastern New EnglandGod’s Community Garden, Island Moving Company, Jamestown Arts Center, Katie Brown Educational Program, Little Compton Community Center, Little Compton Historical SocietyMeals on WheelsMENTOR Rhode IslandNewport Community School, Newport County YMCA, Newport Gulls, the Newport Music Festival, the Newport Partnership for Families, Newport Working CitiesRhode Island Black Storytellers, Salvation ArmySave The Bay, the Seamen’s Church InstituteSpecial Olympics Rhode Island, the Star Kids Scholarship Program, Turning Around MinistriesVisiting Nurse Home & Hospice, and Women’s Resource Center 

 

 

 

RI Foundation and Blue Cross Award $2.6 Million for Behavioral Health Care

The first grants from the Behavioral Health Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation have been awarded to six nonprofit organizations to support primary and secondary prevention models and high-quality, affordable behavioral health care services across the state. 

“Helping Rhode Islanders lead healthier lives is one of our priorities. These grants will address behavioral health needs before people are in crisis. This work will lead to better outcomes across the board while targeting communities that are disproportionately impacted by behavioral health issues,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation.

The Fund was created in August 2018 by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner with a commitment of $5 million in funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI). Current grants totaled $2.6 million over three years.

“The organizations and projects we are funding today are truly impressive,” said Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSRI. “With innovative approaches and use of emerging best practices, we are confident they can achieve long-term, sustainable outcomes. I look forward to seeing great progress in the next few years and thank all of the organizations for helping us to realize our vision to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island.”

“As Governor, expanding access to mental health treatment and support is one of my top priorities, and I’m excited to award the first round of Behavioral Health Fund grantees,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “As part of my administration’s effort to ensure that our state’s insurers are meeting Rhode Island’s mental and behavioral health care needs, last year OHIC conducted a market conduct exam that resulted in a financial settlement with Blue Cross Blue Shield Rhode Island. The Behavioral Health Fund was born out of that settlement.”

Nine Nonprofits Receive Grants from HarborOne Foundation Rhode Island

Harbor One Foundation Rhode Island announced that nine nonprofit organizations in the Greater Providence have received a combined $32,500 in financial support for their work helping children and families.  The foundation focuses its support on organizations that provide educational opportunities, create access to “safe and affordable” housing, and “deliver basic human services to our most vulnerable citizens.”

“It is an honor to be able to help organizations that make such an amazing impact in our community and positively affect so many lives,” said HarborOne Foundation Rhode Island President William White in a statement.

James Blake, CEO of HarborOne Bank, noted that the bank has been “warmly welcomed” into the Rhode Island community and that the foundation is “one way that we can help that community and the people and organizations in it to thrive.”

The grants each organization received ranged from $1,000 to $5,000. The organizations that received grant funding from the foundation are NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Olneyville Housing Corp./One Neighborhood Builders, Sojourner House Inc, West Elmwood Housing Development Corp., Pawtucket School Department, The Miriam Hospital Foundation, Adoption Rhode Island, Young Voices and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island.

BCBSRI Grants $80K to Rhode Island Free Clinic

In honor of its 80th anniversary, GCRI Member Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) has awarded an $80,000 grant to the Rhode Island Free Clinic, bringing the total awarded to the clinic to $870,000 over 14 years.

“Blue Cross is one of Clinic’s longest and strongest partnerships. Their strategic investment and support has been key to the clinic expanding services over time,” said Marie Ghazal, Rhode Island Free Clinic CEO. “This support has been essential to helping the clinic provide vital care for Rhode Island’s most vulnerable adults.”

The grant is intended to support the volunteer-based clinic’s mission of providing comprehensive health and dental care to 2,400 uninsured Rhode Islanders yearly. Services are of no charge to low-income unemployed adults at the clinic. Blue Cross said that the clinic diverts uncompensated emergency department visits, saving millions of dollars in cost on the health care system.

The Rhode Island Free Clinic is one of BCBSRI’s premier funding partners in our aim to increase access to primary care for the uninsured population in Rhode Island,” said Kim Keck, BCBSRI CEO and president. “BCBSRI is committed to passionately leading a state of health and wellbeing and the work that the clinic does is aligned with our mission of facilitating access to affordable, high-quality health care.”

United Way Awards $150K to Olneyville Community Organizations

United Way of Rhode Island’s Olneyville Community Fund has awarded $150,000 to 12 organizations that support children and families in the city’s Olneyville neighborhood.

“We are part of the community fabric of Olneyville and proud to be in a position to help make a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors,” said Angela Bannerman Ankoma, United Way executive vice president and director of community investment. “There is amazing work being done by organizations across this neighborhood that will now reach more children and more families – it’s very exciting.”

United Way of Rhode Island established the Olneyville Community Fund in 2008 when it relocated its headquarters to the neighborhood – considered one of Providence’s poorest – from the East Side. Since then, United Way has distributed more than $1 million from the fund to improve services for residents, increase the capacity of community-based organizations and improve public spaces.

The 12 organizations to receive grants are ONE Neighborhood Builders, Manton Avenue Project, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, Providence Community Library, The Wilbury Theater Group, Meeting Street, Olneyville Neighborhood Association, Clinica Esperanza-Hope Clinic, Center for Resilience, Back to School Celebration of Rhode Island, Kings Cathedral, YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, and the Swearer Center at Brown University.

DHS, DOH Partner to Award Preschool-development Grants

As a result of a partnership between the RI Department of Health and the Department of Human Services, five health equity zones throughout the state have received a total of $360,170 in preschool-development grants.

The selected health equity zones will use the funds to help families prepare children to succeed in school.

“Family members are the first, and often the most important, educators in a child’s early life, yet vulnerable families face significant economic, social-emotional and other barriers to fulfilling that role,” said Womazetta Jones, R.I. Health and Human Services secretary and Children’s Cabinet co-chair. “The preschool-development grants will increase the accessibility, choice, affordability and intensity of programs that are available in these communities.”

The successful HEZ’s were Woonsocket, Central Providence, Pawtucket/Central Falls, Washington County and West Warwick.

 

RI Foundation Grants Seed Local Medical Research

The Rhode Island Foundation is awarding more than $400,000 in seed funding to 17 promising medical research projects. The work ranges from developing data that could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of people suffering from opioid use disorder in hospital ERs to determining the impact of social media on the desire to drink.

The grants are designed to help early-career researchers advance projects to the point where they can compete for national funding. With this round of grants, the Foundation has awarded nearly $2.5 million since 2008.

“We are grateful that our generous donors provide the crucial source of seed funding that enables local researchers to purse promising medical advances,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Our hope is that their successes will bring about healthier lives as well as a healthier economy.”

Johnson & Wales University received $20,300 for “Using Social Media Comments to Reduce the Desire to Drink.” The study will be led by Jonathan Noel, assistant professor in the College of Health & Wellness.

The study will test whether comments left in response to a social media post can influence the desire to drink. The study will examine the effects of those responses, including warning messages from public health organizations and responsibility messages developed by the alcohol industry.

“My hypothesis is that the pro-drinking comments will increase the desire to drink, while anti-drinking and responsible-drinking messages will be a deterrent,” Noel said.

“Social media marketing is more than just the ad message. It’s surrounded by other information we might not notice, such as basic user engagement including comments, likes and shares. If a post or ad has been liked by a friend, you are given an incentive beyond what the ads are actually presenting,” said Noel.

“From what history has taught us regarding tobacco use, in order to really see a decrease in binge drinking and the consequences of alcohol use stemming from this form of advertising, we would need to change how people engage and interact with these ads,” he said.

Rhode Island Hospital received $24,914 for “Quality Improvement of Emergency Department Opioid Use Disorder Treatment.” The study will be led by Elizabeth Samuels, M.D., MPH, MHS.

“Emergency departments (ED) can be a key point of intervention for people treated for an opioid overdose. Each overdose we treat in the ED is an opportunity to provide harm reduction services and linkage to addiction treatment,” said Samuels.

The study will assess patient use of hospital emergency services with the aim of identifying ways to improve care, including harm reduction services, medication for addiction treatment, and counseling by recovery coaches.

“Opioid overdose patients seen in the ED are at high risk of repeat overdose and opioid overdose death. By understanding utilization barriers and how services could be improved, we aim to improve care for people who use opioids to prevent future overdoses and overdose death,” she said.

The other grants are:

  • Brown University received $25,000 for “Redox Control of Immunoregulatory Factors as Targeted Therapies for Inflammation,” led by George Lisi, Ph.D.
  • Brown University received $25,000 for “Alginate Gels for the Release of Immunomodulatory Cues in Ischemic Skin Flaps,” led by Fabiola Munarin, Ph.D.
  • Rhode Island College received $23,986 for “Genetic Basis of Zebrafish Embryonic Melanoctye Migration and Pattern Formation,” led by Larissa Patterson, Ph.D.
  • Rhode Island Hospital received $25,000 for “Effect of Moveable Niches Vesicles on the Development and Mitigation of Bone Marrow Failure,” led by Sicheng Wen, Ph.D.
  • The Miriam Hospital received $25,000 for “HIV Transmitted Drug Resistance and Transmission Networks in the Northern Dominican Republic,” led by Martha Sanchez, M.D.
  • The Miriam Hospital received $24,994.46 for “Understanding Barriers to Health Care among Recently Incarcerated High-risk Women,” led by Collette Sosnowy, Ph.D.
  • The Ocean State Research Institute received $25,000 for “Cardiopulmonary Fitness, Premature Vascular Aging and Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease in HIV,” led by Sebhat Erqou, Ph.D.
  • The Ocean State Research Institute received $25,000 for “Macrophages under Pressure in Right Ventricular Dysfunction Associated with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension,” led by Jamila Siamwala, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Improving Dissemination of Technology-Delivered Physical Activity Interventions,” led by Lauren Bohlen, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $24,956 for “A Pilot Intervention to Reduce Sedentary Time among Older Adults Living in Senior Housing,” led by Mary Greaney, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “A Bioinspired in Situ Delivery Platform with Tunable Drug Release for Improved Cancer Therapy,” led by Jie Shen, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “The Effects of Obesity during Pregnancy on Offspring Pancreas DNA Methylation,” led by Maria Hoffman, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Investigating Specialized Ribosomes and Gene Regulation in Francisella Tularensis,” led by Kathryn Ramsey, Ph.D.
  • The University of Rhode Island received $25,000 for “Skeletal Muscle Oxidative Capacity Evaluation in Children with Cerebral Palsy,” led by Alessandra Adami, Ph.D.

LISC RI Celebrates New Neighborhood Health Station

GCRI member LISC RI celebrated the grand opening and ribbon cutting for the new Neighborhood Health Station in Central Falls with members of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation, project visionaries and leaders, funders, staff and residents. GCRI members Rhode Island Foundation and The Champlin Foundation were also significant partners in the development of the comprehensive new health facility.

LISC Rhode Island provided an investment of $12.2 million for the $15 million project which included an investment of $4.2 million in New Markets Tax Credits through the New Markets Support Company (NMSC), a Chicago-based, wholly-owned subsidiary of LISC and a syndicator of federal New Markets Tax Credits. These credits were part of an $85 million allocation to LISC from the U.S. Treasury Department that are used for transformational community development projects across the LISC footprint. The tax credit equity was combined with low interest loans from LISC and Morgan Stanley through LISC’s Healthy Futures FQHC Financing Fund II, an innovative loan fund to support Federally Qualified Health Centers that provide services designed to address social determinants of health. LISC also provided a pre-development grant of $50,000. At the end of the NMTC compliance period, the Blackstone Valley Neighborhood Health Station will retain nearly $3 million in equity as a result of LISC’s investment.

“LISC heard of the concept through our work leading the Pawtucket and Central Falls Health Equity Zone,” said Jeanne Cola, Executive Director of LISC Rhode Island. “Dr. Fine and Ray Lavoie wanted to change the way that residents thought about their health, and how they accessed health care. It was a new model and targeted one of Rhode Island’s most underserved communities. That kind of mission-driven project deserved our full support.”

Dr. Michael Fine, a member of the LISC PCF HEZ collaborative and the former director of the state health department, brought a particularly ambitious vision to the table. Together with Ray Lavoie, Executive Director of Blackstone Valley Community Health Care (BVCHC), and other members of its Leadership Team, they proposed creating a centralized facility that could provide residents with everything they might need to get and stay healthy, outside of the traditional healthcare system—and all within walking distance of their homes.

“It’s a new concept. It is Dr. Michael Fine’s vision of a Neighborhood Health Station, where 90 percent of the folks in the community can get 90 percent of their health care needs met. And, that is something new,” said Ray Lavoie, executive director of Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, at the Neighborhood Health Station in Central Falls. “It will also sidestep the current structure, where everyone’s medical records are in different doctor’s offices and it is all silo-ed. This is a big step in the right direction.”

The team envisioned a Health Station that would provide comprehensive care, education and recreational opportunities for residents of Central Falls. The new facility will provide family doctors, pediatricians, emergency medicine specialists, nurses, obstetricians, midwives, social workers, behavioral health, dental, physical and occupational therapists, recovery coaches, health coaches, community health workers, translators, and educational programs. The facility provides a dedicated team for taking care of the residents of Central Falls with the goal of making it the healthiest community in Rhode Island.

The goal demands a new way of thinking about health care. Currently, the community is one of Rhode Island’s most underinvested and a third of the residents live in poverty, 27 percent have no health insurance, and per capita income is just more than $14,000. Latinos in this community face particularly high barriers that directly impact health, including poverty, high unemployment, lack of access to educational opportunities, and linguistic and cultural challenges.

“The health station will be a transformational project for this community,” said Cola. “LISC has invested extensively in affordable housing, workforce development, public safety, and childcare and early learning facilities in the Pawtucket and Central Falls communities. And for the past five years, we’ve also worked to improve the social determinants of health for residents. We’re proud to get behind this initiative in such a comprehensive way.”

The Health Station will be a hub for classes in nutrition, diabetes prevention, and financial literacy, as well as recreational opportunities, in addition to providing access to services. More culturally competent and readily-available doctors, dentists, and behavioral health specialists were seen as a critical component to improving the overall health of community members.

The Health Station goal to enroll 90 percent of residents in programs will empower an entire community to strive for optimal health and wellbeing. The facility will create more than 80 permanent full-time jobs, and change the health of thousands.

Collette Celebrates Founders Day with Volunteerism

GCRI member Collette celebrated its Founders Day with a wide variety of volunteer initiatives across Rhode Island. Over 220 employees spent over 450 hours volunteering in projects such as sorting and packing new shoes for foster children with Gotta Have Sole, making literacy kits with United Way, sorting books at Books Are Wings, and serving dinner at the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen. Employees also participated in a shoreline cleanup with Save the Bay, packed 30,000 meals with the Outreach Project to be distributed to Pawtucket schoolchildren and their families, created superhero boxes with Together We Rise for local foster children, and assembled welcome home kits at Crossroads with donations collected by Collette employees.

For a better sense of all the activities, check out the video!