In an effort to respond to feedback from our grant and community partners, we wanted to offer an additional training on October 29th, to provide an informal walkthrough of our grant portal, Foundant. Anyone is welcome — current, former, or interested grant partners! Jessica Fuchs, HIF’s Director of Grants and Community Impact, will discuss how to create an account, access a user’s dashboard, where and how to access open applications, and answer any questions partners might have. The link to register for this training is here. This opportunity is NOT a requirement of interested grant partners, but rather a supplement to the training with additional insight into our online grant portal.
If you have any questions regarding either the October 26 Annual Grantee Training or the October 29 Grant Portal Walkthrough, email Jessica Fuchs!
During the pandemic the adage of ‘many hands make light work’ rang true. Through successful community partnerships and strategic investments, the Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) and *partners were able to break down barriers to access and build the necessary capacity to administer nearly 13,000 vaccines through #70 vaccine clinics in just (3) three months, fully vaccinate 6,500 Montgomery County residents. Most of the vaccines were administered in communities highly impacted by COVID-19 in collaboration with trusted community partners and leaders who were able to effectively engage our Black and Brown residents and residents who speak English as second language.
The County in March 2021 was seeing disproportionate COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration. An eligible tier at the time for pre-registration was 75 and older. The pre-registration rates for White residents 75 and older was at 73%, while the COVID prevalence was at 25%. Conversely, in the over 75 Hispanic population the COVID prevalence was 40% and yet only 6% of those 75 and older were pre-registered for a vaccine. Similarly, in the Black and African American population 75 years and older, there was a COVID prevalence rate of 19% with only 6% pre-registered. The disproportionate access among race was evident and it was not surprising knowing the connection between race and place that the pre-registration data also showed that the County residents gaining access to the vaccine were not from the most highly impacted communities.
Seeing this disparity, HIF proactively in early March requested proposals from our safety-net health providers and the HIF Board created a Vaccine Fund to respond to these proposals. The Foundation fully understood the complexity of the vaccine supply and the tiered eligibility. We also knew from past implementation roll outs with the Health Exchange, COVID-19 testing, etc. that it takes time to build capacity and we wanted our trusted nonprofit safety-net partners to be at the planning table and primed for scalable implementation so infection rates could be stalemated, and lives could be saved in the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
Utilizing the proposals, the HIF team built an implementation plan that allowed for contiguous input from the nonprofit partners that identified the safety-net vaccine administrator, vaccine supplier source (e.g., County, Federally Qualified Health Centers, State of Maryland’s Equity Taskforce, Holy Cross Health System, Safeway Pharmacy, etc.), location of the vaccine clinic, date of occurrence, and available community food or outreach partner as appropriate. HIF then proposed the plan to the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that was approved for execution.
In late March, HIF awarded $369,000 to MobileMed, Chinese Culture and Community Service Center (CCACC), Vietnamese American Services (VAS), Korean Community Services Center (KCSC), and Care 4 Your Health (C4YH) to develop and provide community-based vaccine clinics in COVID-19 highly impacted areas of the County to improve vaccine access and address the disparate outcomes for our Black and Brown residents.
At the time of the HIF grants awards, public dollars were anticipated to be forthcoming. As a funder we had the ability to respond nimbly and quickly to save lives making funding available expeditiously to trusted community partners. We also knew that this frontend capacity building investment was essential to onboarding and training staff, site development, process management, establishing quality and safety measures, and identifying multiple access points for vaccine suppliers, so that when funds became available there was the capacity to scale up efforts.
Through the planning and implementation phases, HIF facilitated weekly convening meetings where partners provided updates, shared new barriers and successes, and became each other’s champions. As the pilot progressed, the collaborations grew stronger with additional safety- net providers like Casa Ruben, Global Sustainable Partnerships (GSP), and ANGARAI CARES CBO joining the collaborative effort along with health systems and insurance carriers.
The partners have continued to meet weekly even after the conclusion of the HIF grants with the goal of reaching all residents that have not yet received the vaccine. HIF is proud of what these community leaders and partners have accomplished over the (3) three months and the efforts that they are continuing to lead with public investment.
As we reflect upon this work, HIF and the vaccine partners identified (7) seven pillars of success which can help lay the foundation for future community centered approaches for equitable access to care.
Pillars to Addressing Equitable Vaccine Access
Lead with Trusted Community Partners and Leaders – It is critical to partner with community organizations that residents trust at the onset of planning if you want to transform the systemic barriers to access to care. Community organizations are led by leaders trusted by and often from the community with strong reputations of offering services with integrity. For addressing vaccine access, this necessitated HIF to invest on the frontend partner planning and coordination efforts so that the deployed strategies centered community voice and patient needs and were designed with community. This advanced planning enabled the healthcare safety-net providers to collaborate with the faith community, food distribution sites, grocery stores, businesses, neighborhoods, other nonprofits, and with community organizers to bring the vaccine clinics where residents were already engaged. It also required funding trusted community ambassadors and case managers with the cultural understanding and linguistic capacity to assist with navigation, address concerns, help with the registration process, and connect with health providers for medical advice. Through the HIF grant to CCAC, VAS and KCSC were provided subgrants to provide culturally and linguistically centered patient navigation services for the CCAC ‘s vaccine clinics. In addition, HIF outside of the Vaccine fund granted GSP and Identity, Inc. funding to support culturally and linguistically centered community outreach efforts around vaccine education and vaccine access.
Integrate Service Delivery – Many of the safety-net partners shifted their models from having residents come to them in the more traditional clinic model to going to where residents were accessing services such as food distribution locations, health fairs, grocery stores, businesses, community events, faith services, etc. Further, as opportunities presented, additional services were integrated into the clinic outreach days such as vision exam for children, health screening, other immunizations, etc. This advanced collaboration and resource sharing amongst nonprofits made multiple services more readily available to the community. Moving a clinic model to community takes multiple site visits and advance planning particularly as you concentrate on the safety planning and the flow of operations. Through effective collaboration and planning, ANGARAI CARES CBO, American Diversity Group (ADG), KloudData, and DHHS partnered to successfully launch a community service organization in the Plum Orchard area of Silver Spring to provide critical services out of a single center in English, Spanish, Amharic, French, and Mandarin-Chinese. These services include food distribution; free COVID testing; COVID vaccination; and chronic disease management clinics.
Convene Collaborative Strategic Planning and Build Partnerships – Philanthropy serves a vital role as neutral convener bringing partners together to assist with the planning and service integration. We know that successful collaboration takes time and support is needed beyond grant dollars for planning, information sharing, and implementation. For these projects, HIF designed the initial implementation plan integrating the proposals from the (3) three safety-net clinic partners to create a comprehensive plan for addressing the inequitable access to vaccines. The implementation plan was approved by DHHS and subsequently updated weekly enabling the foundation and partners to coordinate and ensure that these resources were being deployed strategically to highly impacted communities. HIF also hosted weekly partner-led provider meetings to allow a safe space for learning, collaboration, continuously planning, and support. The vaccine partner group has affectionately named itself, ‘Rebels with a Cause,” leaders working towards systems transformation. Through this collaboration, they celebrate each other’s successes and bolster one another during hardships. One of the partners, GSP, was working for several months to expand their integrated diabetes and vaccine education community outreach program into Montgomery County to serve Black and Brown residents. The partners rallied around GSP, offering encouragement along the journey, and celebrated with GSP when they reached the pivotal milestone of their getting their request for a bus approved.
Strengthen the Healthcare Workforce – Training our future healthcare workforce on community centered approaches built around cultural and linguistic needs is paramount. At the onset of the vaccine partnership, HIF engaged with Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove to connect nursing students with the community-based vaccine clinics. This collaboration not only increased the capacity of the safety-net partners to offer efficient and effective clinics, but also allowed valuable training opportunities for nursing students on community-based responses, safety protocols, pop-up clinic operation, and quality patient engagement. Many nursing students were unable to work directly with patients for over year because of the pandemic missing vital experiential learnings and these clinics helped many students regain their purpose and passion for nursing and passed along crucial skills. One example of this is MobileMed, utilizing Montgomery College nursing students to help staff up their vaccine clinic at the Lakeforest Equity Center (LEC). The pre-registration was done the day before the clinic by the LEC team during their food drive-up event by trusted community organizers. The day of the clinic, Nourish Now offered additional food resources for participating residents. Each of the partners utilized their strengths to offer training to future healthcare workers and provide comprehensive and integrated services for vaccines and food distribution that were culturally centered at a trusted provider location where residents were already accessing services.
Accessible and Flexible Service Delivery Models– Flexible approaches are needed when countering access barriers to care. No one can do it all but making investments strategically that meet the continuum of care for the entire population is vital. Working with community partners, HIF invested in the multiple strategies for vaccine administration funding partners to offer vaccines in the home, in the community, at their clinics, and with partner organization to ensure the right delivery model was offered to meet the resident’s individual and household circumstances. C4YH patients are primarily Hispanic residents over 65 and many were homebound and did not have the capacity to go outside of their homes for the vaccine. The younger members of the community had severe transportation barriers making it difficult to community to get to the needed services. Additionally, most of those that were employed could not leave their jobs to receive services. Understanding these challenges, the C4YH leadership designed the safety workflow and protocols to offer vaccines in the home, in the community after-hours, and on the weekends. This innovative approach made access available more quickly to those that did not have access through the mainstream offerings.
Fund Diversified Partners – Investment in diverse and multiple partners to manage the vaccine education and vaccine process allowed for services to be delivered in culturally and linguistically respectful ways. HIF and the partners were cognizant that there were going to be unforeseen barriers that emerged during the implementation and there was a commitment to work through these together. CCAC partnered and gave subgrants to Vietnamese American Society (VAS) and Korean Community Services Center (KCSC) knowing that language and cultural norms may circumvent residents from coming to their clinic. Working with VAS and KCSC they were able to work through these intrinsic challenges and build bridges of trust and connect residents with vaccines.
Build the Capacity of the Healthcare Safety-Net – HIF intentionally funded healthcare nonprofit providers to build the capacity for the safety-net health clinics to both scale-up their services locally and engage more residents in long-term health services. By having a nonprofit medical provider in the community offering the vaccines, residents have become more aware that healthcare is available, and they learn how they can be connected to a medical provider and gain access to health coverage. An example of this is the efforts being led by Dr. Ligia Peralta, founder of Casa Ruben, who is a strong advocate and a pediatrician. Through her work, she is ensuring that children not only receive the COVID-19 vaccines, if eligible, but that children are also linked to care and up to date on all their immunizations which in many instances have lapsed due to the pandemic. Working with a trusted a community provider is key, and the UpCounty Distribution Hub has collaborated with Dr. Peralta to join them as a part of their food distributions taking place in the community. These integrated clinic and food events further offer valuable opportunities to engage caregivers in discussions about health coverage and healthcare resources available for themselves and their children. Another partner, CCAC through their vaccine clinic engagements, was able to enroll #150 Montgomery County adult residents, that had no prior healthcare, into Montgomery Cares connecting them with health coverage and consistent medical care. We have always known the vital importance of connecting residents with consistent healthcare and now seeing the harmful impact of COVID-19 on individuals with pre-existing conditions the necessity of quality healthcare access for all is even more abundantly clear.
Thank you to all the collaborative partners that are our community heroes! The progress made in these initial months provided the seminal foundation for countering the disparate inequities in getting access to the vaccine.
*MobileMed, Care 4 Your Health (C4YH), Chinese Culture and Community Service Center (CCACC), ANGARAI CARES CBO, Vietnamese American Services (VAS), Korean Community Services Center (KCSC), Identity, Inc., Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Holy Cross Health, Global Sustainable Partnerships (GSP), Nourish Now, American Diversity Group (ADG), Casa Ruben, Montgomery College, The Universities at Shady Grove (USG), Gaithersburg Cares Hub, LakeForest Equity Center (LEC), and UpCounty Consolidation Hub at BlackRock Center for the Arts
Philanthropy can be so much more than the dollars distributed, and when funders invest with the community and include community voice in the work, we all are better stewards of these resources. Creating a successful partnership between funders and nonprofit requires calculated leaps together, and longer-term and more robust commitments supporting innovation, on-going learning, advocacy, and the facilitation of vital connections.
At the onset of the pandemic, the Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) was approached by Black Rock Center for the Arts (BRCA) for seed funding to reopen their closed facility to serve as a temporary warehouse and distribution center for donated food to be disseminated to the community. All that was needed was funding to bring back the Facilities Manager that was laid-off to safely reopen for nonprofit partners and volunteers to operate. As the planning and implementation commenced, the Foundation:
Engaged with community leaders and nonprofits to bring on more partners and volunteers to meet the ever-growing need;
Frequently presented on the HUB model to community leaders and stakeholders;
Created vital connections to address barriers and expand the scope of services;
Made additional calculated investments to other nonprofit partners to align the Hub’s work with testing, vaccines, and telehealth; and
Personally volunteered to support holiday giving, Easter, Halloween, and other events.
The benefits of HIF’s ongoing collaborative partnership relationship have far exceeded the initial seed funding of just $5,000.
Over the last year, the UpCounty Distribution Hub at BRCA has grown to serve #1200 individuals weekly with comprehensive resources (i.e., activity kits, culturally appropriate and quality perishable and nonperishable foods, sports equipment, COVID safety-kits, diapers and formula, and sanitary kits, etc.) and case management to connect to vital services (i.e., rental services, testing, vaccines, telehealth, etc.). This Hub has also served as a model for (7) seven other regions in Montgomery County to create community-centered, culturally-responsive, and integrated service hubs and will be one of the innovations that has transformed service delivery during the pandemic.
What does it take to transform the funder and grantee dynamic from primarily a transactional relationship to an authentic, collaborative partnership?
Some key strategies that HIF has found to be vital are as follows: address systemic barriers; invest in innovation; integrate services and align investments; and provide on-going implementation support.
Address the systemic barriers that are deterrents and create obstacles to service delivery. Funders can utilize their personal and professional networks to connect leaders with resources, information, and social and political capital to navigate these barriers and build lasting trust. Grantees are often unable to fully advocate because of the power dynamics and the dependency on these institutions for future support and access. Philanthropy can serve as the neutral broker in these conversations to help navigate the change.
Invest in innovation serving as a valuable equity incubator. Investors can fund new and/or emerging nonprofit leaders, particularly offering support to BIPOC leaders that have been historically underinvested in, to build their capacity to offer sustainable services. These organizations frequently start off as an all-volunteer run organization and assisting them with this transformation as they grow is imperative. Funders can also support proof of concepts to build credibility and fund community-based strategies that are built with the community versus for community. We have learned repeatedly that just building the program and service is not enough as access requires attentiveness to cultural norms, language capacity, transportation, childcare, employment flexibility, and safety. Engaging with community on the design of the plan and throughout the implementation is imperative to ensure that these opportunities are accessible by all in the community.
Integration of services and aligning investments is fundamental to ensure continuity of care and enhance efficiency through shared resources and partnership. As funders, we have the opportunity and privilege to meet with so many nonprofits doing phenomenal work, so it is incumbent on us to share and connect. No one organization needs to do it all, but through vital connections and collaboration their participants can have access to it all and each partner can do what they do best. For example, medical providers can have access through collaboration and integrated funding to healthy food and behavioral health services, greatly improving the health and wellness of their patients. Additionally, as the example above highlighted, a Hub can be the collection center of many needed resources to disseminate seamlessly to residents versus a resident having to go to multiple locations to get all that they need.
Provide ongoing implementation support offering opportunities for grantees to continuously engage with funders so that problem-solving can occur. These discussions can lead to advocacy, technical assistance, and/or a chance to offer flexibility around the project design, budgeting, and timing for the project. Through the pandemic, this lessoned was reinforced as our valued partners and systems were adapting to a very dynamic environment. Being embedded in the change enabled us to be the vital support to nonprofits to ensure resources and services were available even if the strategy and modality changed. We were successful together.
As we continue our path to recovery, HIF is committed to advancing our collaborations and partnerships with our nonprofits and fellow philanthropists as we know investments are not enough to yield the change we want to see in our community.
Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) is enthusiastic to award $369,564 from its COVID-19 Vaccine Fund. These grants will improve equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine in highly impacted areas of the County through the administration of over 12,204 vaccines fully vaccinating approximately 6,742 Montgomery County residents.
HIF’s short-term, capacity building investment will pilot over #70 place-based vaccination clinics in highly impacted areas of the County to improve vaccine access and address the disparate outcomes for our black and brown residents. Thus far, grants have been awarded to: MobileMed, Care For Your Health (C4YH), and the Chinese Culture and Community Services Center (CCACC) to deploy and coordinate culturally appropriate, place-based vaccination clinics that utilize a variety of vaccine suppliers, community ambassadors and volunteers, food providers, and strategic locations to decrease barriers.
The safety-net clinics will use HIF funds to build the necessary capacities to onboard and train staff, develop locations, administrator the vaccines, and support costs for mobilizing clinics. Through valuable partnerships with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Holy Cross Hospital (HCH), the Federal Government-Federal Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and with the Maryland Equity Taskforce/National Guard these safety-net clinic partners will gain access to vaccine supplies and valuable technical assistance. We are stronger together and HIF is honored to collaborate with these incredible partners to improve vaccine access for all!
Greater DC Diaper Bank Receives Grant to Provide 60,000 diapers to Montgomery County Families
Spring 2020 required swift reaction from community organizations, public policy, and philanthropy to respond to the mounting concerns of COVID-19. In May 2020, HIF provided seed funding to support the rapid implementation of the UpCounty Consolidation Hub at BlackRock Center for the Arts. The Hub provides necessary food, hygiene items, and COVID-kits for UpCounty families. It was through this work that HIF was reintroduced to the Greater DC Diaper Bank and the gap they were filling in Montgomery County to provide families with essential items like diapers, wipes, baby gear, feminine products, and formula.
As the pandemic pushed more and more families into financial hardship, the Diaper Bank responded by providing these essential items to their more than 60 community partners and initiating 19 Diaper Need Hubs in the DC Metro Region. HIF responded by investing in the remarkable work of the DC Diaper Bank to support two Montgomery County serving nonprofits with 60,000 diapers—Family Services, Inc, a program of Sheppard Pratt, and Mary’s Center. DC Diaper Bank anticipates providing nearly 7 million diapers to families in the DC Metro Region in 2021, with 1.7 million (25%) diapers supporting Montgomery County families.
The mission of the DC Diaper Bank is to empower parents and babies in need throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia by providing an adequate and reliable source for basic baby needs and personal hygiene products. Of their current distribution partners throughout the DC Metro Region, nearly 40% (#24) are located in Montgomery County. One partner shared, “I can’t tell you how many clients and folks we have made happy with these diapers. We are so proud and honored to be a partner in serving folks with their basic needs. Thank you so much for this partnership that has served so many smiling faces. We used to get begged for diapers, it seemed to be the communities greatest need besides food.”
HIF invests in Community-based Mental Health Initiative to allow for program expansion and evaluation.
2020 was a hard year for all of us and 2021 looks to continue to be a trying time but there is a light at the end of this COVID-tunnel! While all of us had to pivot, flex, and adapt in some form, many members of our community were hit much harder. In particular, our Latino community in Montgomery County have been devastated by the pandemic. Through our Emerging Needs investment cycle, HIF was able to provide early support to Identity, based in Gaithersburg, to allow for the evaluation and expansion of their community-based mental health initiative to respond to this dire need. The community mental health project evaluation work will include collaboration with a team of researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. HIF is proud to invest in community-based nonprofits who are able to offer trusted, culturally-competent programming!
In Montgomery County, we are fortunate to have reliable community partners who were ready to implement community-based programming to allow for a safe space to heal and thrive. Early in the pandemic, Identity realized that they would need to accelerate the growth of their mental health support groups by training their non-clinical staff and volunteer parent Promotoras. Promotoras are Latino community members who receive specialized training to provide basic health education and support. They are trained by Identity to provide active listening, trauma-informed coping mechanisms, management of stress, anxiety, grief, and supports for children.
To learn more about Identity and their wide variety of amazing programming, visit their website at identity-youth.org.
To receive additional information about this program or about HIF’s grant investments, please contact Director of Grants and Community Impact at Jess.Fuchs@hifmc.org.
Over the summer, the Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) collaborated with CommonHealth ACTION (CHA) to host focus groups with HIF grantees as part of our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) assessment. We had originally hoped to launch this in the spring, but the COVID pandemic derailed these plans and we felt it imperative that we wait until our valued community partners could breathe and fully engage.
As summer fell upon us recovery remained out of sight and the disproportionate impact of the crisis on our black and brown residents was abundantly clear further exemplifying the structural inequities already present in our community. HIF knew that before we could move forward with our fiscal year 2021 funding, we needed to hear from our community partners and decided to forge ahead virtually with the EDI work. We thank and extend our gratitude to the (17) seventeen nonprofits that gave of their time this summer and are excited to share what we learned and how we are responding to the assessment.
EDI Strengths Identified by Partners:
Supports nonprofits and their missions.
Offers capacity building, provides guidance, support, understanding, and listens to objectives and plans.
Furthers EDI work and directs investments to historically underinvested communities.
Offers and funds learning opportunities including EDI trainings and webinars.
Supports partnerships, innovation, and collaboration.
Believes in the power of community supported convenings to give voice to challenges and solutions.
EDI Opportunities Identified by Partners:
Provide greater opportunities for grantees to share their perspectives during decision-making processes.
Data deadlines and reporting requirements are too demanding.
Sustainability policies negatively impact organizations who offer free programs and services.
General operating support is needed and the restricted funding prevents nonprofits from adapting and responding to the community.
Greater focus needs to be placed on cross sectoral responses to address the social determinants of health.
Supports are needed for the health, safety, healing, and restoration of staff.
HIF is proud of the work that has been done and recognizes that our EDI journey continues and initiated some key strategies this fall to further our EDI work. We remain committed to this ongoing internal reflection and evolution so that our investments are not perpetuating the systemic inequities but driving the change we want to see in pursuit of our mission.
HIF’s Fall EDI Journey:
Revamped and streamlined our application and reporting processes to better reflect the priorities identified by our grantees and create better efficiencies and less burden on grantees.
Convened monthly meetings with the Grants Advisory Committee to continue to keep them informed of the opportunities and challenges faced by our community partners.
Planned for grantee panel discussions with the Foundation staff and board to lend greater voice and share priorities.
Surveyed grantees on how they prioritized funding for both their organization and for the community and plan to utilize these results in the grant review.
Relaunched our equity webinars to offer opportunities for grantees to share how they are breaking down barriers to ensure access to programs and services.
Volunteered in the field with our nonprofits and community to connect and learn how to better support efforts through the Foundation’s investments.
Met with all our grantees virtually to revisit where they are and how we can support them in their work and make adaptations to better serve together our community.
We know this journey is not complete and our learning is not done, but with grace, empathy, and persistence we take steps each day towards building stronger and more mutually accountable relationships with our partners and community. Thank you for all that you do each day to support the health and wellness for all in Montgomery County.
Metropolitan Council of Governments shares, “Health Equity: How Opportunities for Health are Shaped by Race and Ethnicity, is a tool to normalize the conversation on why equity matters and the importance of addressing the conditions that restrict opportunities for good health and economic mobility.”
Funding support for the 2020 ‘Health Equity’ report include Healthcare Initiative Foundation, Potomac Health Foundation, Northern Virginia Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, and CareFirst Bluecross BlueShield.