$3.6M in health care remediation grants announced by R.I. Foundation

PROVIDENCE – Targeting residents of Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick, Woonsocket, as well as additional communities in South County, the Rhode Island Foundation Friday morning announced $3.6 million in health care grants designed to reduce chronic disease and health disparities.

Six nonprofit recipients – Progreso Latino, ONE Neighborhood Builders, South County Health, Thundermist Health Centers in West Warwick and Woonsocket, and the Women’s Resource Center – which were selected from 39 applications, will evenly share the total $3.6 million.

In choosing the six recipient organizations, said Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg in a statement: “We sought place-based initiatives that will bring together partners with a shared vision and action plan to address social determinants of health.”

Progreso Latino will use its $600,000 share to fund a three-year effort to reduce disparities and improve chronic illness management. Among the Central Falls-based organization’s plans are connecting patients with resources such as housing, employment and wellness programs and providing culturally-tailored training for clinical providers and community health workers.

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Providence’s ONE Neighborhood Builders will use its share to partner with Olneyville Health Equity Zone members to address issues raised by Providence Housing Authority residents including abandoned houses and vacant lots in the neighborhood. This work will be completed by 10 Olneyville residents hired by the nonprofit as community health workers.

The $600,000 grant awarded to South County Health in South Kingstown will fund further Health Equity Zone: South County Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds’ regional efforts. The group focuses on mental health – especially among its youngest citizens.

“According to state Department of Education data, more than a quarter of students in grades 6 through 12 reported they felt so sad or hopeless that they stopped their usual activities. Mental health issues go untreated or undiagnosed and substance abuse is prevalent,” said Susan Orban, director of the initiative.

Two Thundermist Health Center branches, one in West Warwick and the other in Woonsocket, also received $600,000 grants from the foundation Friday.

In West Warwick, the money will help expand Town Well programming. A collection of local nonprofits, businesses, residents and municipal agencies, Town Well targets health and safety issues such as overdose prevention, access to fresh food, and transportation.

Thundermist Health Center of Woonsocket received $600,000 on behalf of the Woonsocket Health Equity Zone to expand health education at Woonsocket High School, ensure healthy food is available and affordable in every neighborhood and expand access to opioid treatment and recovery services among other services.

“Driven by upstream factors including poverty, food insecurity, a lack of access to healthy foods, transportation and affordable housing, Woonsocket is disproportionately affected by health disparities” said Susan Jacobsen, Thundermist’s senior director of health equity initiatives, in a statement. “Working with 25 Health Equity Zone partners, our goal is to transform the city’s neighborhoods into places where all children and families can succeed and thrive.”

Lastly, Newport’s Women’s Resource Center will use its $600,000 grant to buttress Newport Health Equity Zone. They plan to improve health care-related disparities by providing culturally-specific programs and increasing the civic engagement of residents, among other efforts, throughout the city’s North End and Broadway neighborhoods.

Funds for this grant opportunity were made possible by contributions from the foundation’s Fund for a Healthy Rhode Island ($2.8 million) and its Health Lives Strategic Initiative budget ($800,000).

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.