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OHA announced the launch of a new program to fund work by Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to help respond to COVID-19 in culturally - and linguistically - responsive ways in communities across the state.

OHA will provide 173 CBOs with $9.4 million in CARES Act funds. The CBOs are contracted to help with three specific areas, though not all organizations were contracted to carry out work in all areas.

- Outreach and community engagement;

- Contact tracing together with local public health authorities; and

- Providing people with social services/wraparound supports.

The organizations are located in every county in the state, with deep ties to the communities they serve. Grants range from $9,500 to $352,200 for the first three months of funding (July 1-September 30, 2020) and depend on the type and scope of work the organization has agreed to carry out. Additional CBOs may be funded as applications come in to OHA.

OHA recognizes the impact longstanding health inequities, rooted in systemic racism and oppression, are having on COVID-19 infections in Oregon. CBOs are key to preventing and mitigating COVID-19 in communities that are most impacted. With COVID-19 disproportionately affecting communities of color, including high infection rates among Latinx, Black and Pacific Islanders, among others, the need for this program was substantial.

“Today, we’re taking a step forward in addressing the inequities COVID-19 has laid bare,” said Patrick Allen, OHA director. “These CBOs are trusted messengers in their communities who have been trying to provide support with existing resources. This partnership with OHA and local public health authorities will give CBOs the resources they need to increase their outreach and add much-needed capacity for an equitable statewide response.”

Outreach and community engagement: CBOs can utilize their trusted connections to individuals, families and communities as a critical way to share accurate information about COVID-19. By sharing information about COVID-19 in culturally- and linguistically responsive ways, OHA will help address COVID-19 disparities that are a result of systemic racism and oppression.

Contact tracing: An important part of the COVID-19 response is ensuring that any contacts of COVID-19 cases are notified about their potential exposure and monitored for symptoms. In order to engage with communities, Community Health Workers, Traditional Health Workers and individuals who have similar training or skill sets can effectively build relationships and make contact tracing successful.

Social services/wraparound supports: Individuals impacted by COVID-19 may need supports for daily living in order to comply with quarantine or isolation requirements. CBOs will provide housing, meals and other services to help community members during their quarantine or isolation period. In addition to the funds each CBO is receiving for their first quarter of work, CBOs are being reimbursed for the direct costs associated with supporting communities in isolation and quarantine.

One of the CBOs engaged to do the work, Oasis of Praise International Ministries in Multnomah County, will be distributing COVID-19 educational materials and conducting outreach to members of the faith community. Its community outreach strategies include canvassing, social media, mailers, digital communication and other methods to ensure that the faith community is well informed of the coronavirus and how to prevent its transmission.

“Houses of worship have always been seen as a trusted pillar of support and resource in times of crisis. I appreciate the Oregon Health Authority prioritizing its resources to include the Black church and other houses of worship to help equip our communities with information and services to reduce the transmission of COVID-19,” said Apostle Levell Thomas, Oasis of Praise International Ministries.

Another CBO, EUVALCREE, which works in Malheur County, launched its Endeavors Residency Program to provide internship opportunities for college students attending Eastern Oregon University, Blue Mountain Community College and Treasure Valley Community College, as part of its strategic initiative to address and support communities of color that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. With OHA support, EUVALCREE will use its paid interns in the program to provide community engagement and education, contact tracing, social services and wraparound support for cases and contacts in a culturally and linguistically responsive manner and meet the needs of communities most impacted.

"In a time of crisis, it is essential to unite and work towards a common goal of greater good. Given our current social, political and economic time, I am grateful for the support that all three institutions of higher education have provided to ensure that the program is a success,” said Gustavo Morales, executive director, EUVALCREE.

Meanwhile, OHA stood up a team of 11 community engagement coordinators to work directly with the CBOs and ensure they have access to the tools and resources they need. In the fall, OHA plans to evaluate results from an initial phase and make awards for the second quarter of work. A full list of the CBOs and additional information about the program is available at healthoregon.org/communityengagement.

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