For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light and exacerbated racial and ethnic health disparities that have long existed. Data from the Richmond City and Chesterfield County Health Departments in June revealed just how dramatic the effect of the pandemic has been on our Hispanic/Latino neighbors including undocumented individuals. (These were highlighted in an article published by the RTD on August 18). In Richmond, more than 31% of confirmed cases and 29% of all hospitalizations were among Hispanic/ Latino identified individuals, but only 6.7% of the population is Hispanic/Latino. The data in Chesterfield is similar, showing nearly 20% of cases and hospitalizations among a population that is 8.5% Hispanic/Latino.
-Alexander Samuel, MD, MPH, Director, Chesterfield County Health District
“We want testing and resources for safe isolation, quarantine, and recovery to be available to every resident regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay. Creating a navigation system with bilingual and bicultural staff who can guide Latino residents through the testing process and toward medical care, food, temporary housing, and other resources if they become infected has the potential to greatly reduce COVID-19 rates in Latino communities in Central VA. But it also demonstrates to these communities that we care about them, and that their health and safety are vital to our region as a whole. ”
-Danny Avula, MD, MPH, Director, Richmond City and Henrico County Health Districts
The CDC took note of our alarming statistics and first sent a taskforce to investigate and later connected the Health Departments and RMHF to the CDC Foundation for support addressing the crisis.
“COVID-19 has been costly to our nation and the world in the number of people infected and lives and livelihoods lost. However in our fragile communities such as the Latinx residents in the Richmond area, this pandemic has brought forth many additional challenges. By partnering with the Richmond area community for this $500,000 grant and helping to encourage additional funding, our goal is to expand social support and resources. We hope our grant will continue to serve as a catalyst for other donors to come forward and provide additional resources to help the Latinx communities.”
-Judy Monroe, MD, President and CEO, CDC Foundation
RMHF is serving as fiscal sponsor for the funding, and we have been convening representatives from the health departments, the funding community, our nonprofit partners and public leaders to plan and quickly deploy resources to address vital needs.
$190,000 has already been deployed to Sacred Heart Center, Latinos in Virginia Empowerment (LIVE ) Center, and Southside Community Development & Housing Corporation to support rent or utility assistance, so they can safely remain home while quarantining or isolating if necessary. According to data from the CDC, if we are able to successfully overcome barriers to quarantine, every resident stands to benefit from an 86% reduction in community transmission.
“We view this initiative as a first phase humanitarian response to address problems exacerbated by COVID-19. We’re enthusiastic about the deep collaboration, the public-private partnership, and the potential to create sustained, system-level change in our community. That’s why RMHF Trustees have committed $50,000 to the initiative, specifically for nonprofit partner capacity building to support health equity.”
– Deb Ulmer, RN, PhD, PhD, Board Chair, RMHF
The Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond is contributing $100,000 for additional native Spanish-speaking Navigators and Community Health Workers to connect with individuals and families affected by COVID-19. Community Foundation team members are also supporting fund development and participating in strategic planning sessions.
Open Society Foundations also contributed $250,000 for rental assistance, which is being deployed by HOME, and the City of Richmond has added more than $200,000 of CARES Act funding to address the needs of the Hispanic/Latino community, including those who are undocumented.
The community response to support our Hispanic/Latino and undocumented neighbors impacted by the pandemic is bolstered and sustained by the work of the health care safety net clinics, FeedMore, and Waymakers Foundation, among others. The work of the health care safety net clinics was recently featured in a richmond.com article.
In total, more than 15 organizations are working collaboratively to deploy over $1,000,000 as a first phase humanitarian response. We know the journey ahead is long and that other members of our community also need our support. But, we are energized by the early momentum we are experiencing and hopeful we will foster greater health equity in the Richmond region.