Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides 65 Community Health Awards to area nonprofits

SYRACUSE - Excellus BlueCross BlueShield announced that it is awarding a total of 65 Community Health Awards to nonprofit organizations across upstate New York, including 10 in the Central New York region. Community Health Award funding will support innovative programs and solutions to advance health equity and ultimately improve health outcomes for underserved segments of the communities the health plan serves.

Through a competitive application process, Excellus BCBS’s Community Health Awards will provide over $260,000 in funding to launch, expand, and sustain programs and services that promote health. These investments will also advance health equity by extending the reach of preventive health services or health-promoting programs to vulnerable populations.

“Providing access to high-quality health care for people who need it is core to our mission as a nonprofit health plan,” states Gina Cuyler, MD, FACP, Excellus BCBS vice president, health equity and community investments. “This essential community health funding will allow our community organizations to continue to address and remove barriers impacting economic stability, address social determinants of health, and reinforce overall community health improvement programs.”

The 10 Central New York region nonprofit organizations chosen to receive Excellus BCBS Community Health Awards are:

· Dunbar Association - Funding will support a three-part health and wellness fair that includes a community health fair, on-site health screenings (including STD/STI, mammograms and dental), half-day conference-style events with breakout sessions for listening sessions and data collection, as well as speaker presentations to community members and other professionals. Additionally, plans include a mixer for professionals and community members in the field to network and strengthen community connections.

· Farnham Family Services - Funding will support the Community Connections program by providing the local community with nonperishable food boxes and hygiene kits on a biweekly basis. The boxes/kits may be delivered to help break down the transportation barrier that some face in rural communities.

· Food Bank of Central New York - Funding will support the purchase and distribution of 1,000 health and hygiene kits. The items included in the kits may include: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, razor, deodorant, comb, shampoo, shave gel, and toilet paper. These items will be distributed through the Mobile Food Pantry program and included on an online ordering system for Food Bank partners to select for their clients.

· Girl Scouts of NYPENN - Funding will support a LGBTQ+ camp program in August 2022 at the council’s Camp Amahami property. The camp—open to any eligible youth—will operate for one week and will be run by council staff and volunteers in addition to seasonal staff with LGBTQ+ expertise, including an on-staff counselor.

· Helio Health - Funding will support the Food for Thought program offered within the Recovery Center. The Recovery Center provides a safe space to support individuals in recovery. The Recovery Center offers various programs, meetings, and special events that are inclusive to the entire recovery community. Its purpose is to help the individual and their support network develop the skills they require to maintain a successful recovery. The Recovery Center is open to the public.

· Rise Above Poverty - Funding will support a spring, summer, and fall reading clinic in 2022. The reading clinics will be for third and fourth-grade students with critically low reading proficiency levels.

· Seven Valleys Health Coalition, Inc. - Funding will expand the Seven Valleys Food Rescue program through the purchase of equipment and supplies enabling volunteers to transport perishable foods from local food donors across Cortland County to local organizations and community programs that feed food-insecure community members.

· Syracuse Northeast Community Center - Funding will support a pilot program designed to promote health connections within the New American, refugee, and immigrant communities through improved engagement with the center’s economic stability and health services.

· United Way of Central New York - Funding will support the Layla Wellness Retreat, focusing on mental and reproductive wellness for young women ages 18-25. Following the retreat, these young women will serve as reproductive wellness champions, providing support to their peers.

· YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County - Funding will support the A Matter of Balance program to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults. The evidence-based program teaches participants how to view falls as controllable, set goals for increasing activity, make changes to reduce fall risk at home, and exercise to increase strength and balance.

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