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Spokane County community health centers receive $50,000 to advance health equity

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 3, 2021

Two Spokane organizations have been awarded $50,000 each as part of a Community Health Plan of Washington initiative to improve health equity across the state.

Of the 15 health centers awarded , Spokane County’s Community Health Association of Spokane and Yakima Valley Farm Workers received the $50,000 grants.

Grants for the centers’ new equity projects will focus on four areas: advancing pregnancy care, depression management, chronic conditions management and enhancing member experience and access. CHAS will focus their equity project on depression, while Yakima Valley Farm Workers will zero in on member access.

Almost one million Washington residents receive care from Federally Qualified Community Health Centers in Washington. Leanne Berge, CEO of the Community Health Plan of Washington, said the grants are a part of CHPW’s equity goals, which have been in place since their founding 27 years ago.

Learning sessions and connection with community health centers were already part of CHPW’s strategy to identify health inequity. The halt of everyday medical care due to COVID colored the importance of community health centers’ role in health.

“COVID brought (community health centers’) values to the forefront through their outreach and testing, getting the word out on prevention and how people could deal with distress due to COVID,” Berge said. “We’ve all seen how important community health centers have been during the times of crisis.”

The broadness of the four categories creates a path to discover more inequity exposed during and beyond COVID. Throughout the pandemic, patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes have not always been able to receive treatment due to the lack of resources .

The organizations can use the grants however they want. Jennifer Polello, senior director of quality and population health of the CHPW, said community health centers know their patient populations best, and will develop their own plans based on their distinctive needs.

“We really designed this project to be broad in nature, so the CHC can work at how they want to impact their entire patient population with their grants,” Polello said. “We just wanted to come together to solve these issues and learn from each other in the process.”

CHPW also gave out grants in September 2020 and May 2021 to local community based organizations. Of those, Spokane’s The NATIVE Project and The Healing Lodge received $10,000 each. These additional grants bring the Community Health Plan of Washington’s investment in advancing equity to $1 million in 2021.

Editor’s Note: Leanne Berge, CEO of the Community Health Plan of Washington, last name is spelled Berge not Burge. She is the CEO of the CHPW and the Community Health Network of Washington. Nearly 1 million state residents receive services provided by Federally Qualified Community Health Centers in Washington, not the 265,000 residents previously reported. 

This article has been updated to reflect that. 

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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