Intermountain Healthcare and Maverik – Adventure’s First Stop are joining together to donate $2 million in funding to support a Utah Department of Health program to mitigate the spread and negative impact of COVID-19 and support vulnerable community members. 

Community health workers are actively addressing the health disparities among communities of color that have widened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community health workers are frontline public health workers who have a unique relationship with the community they serve and can act as a bridge between the community and health and social resources.

They facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural and linguistic competence of service delivery. Community health workers often share race, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, and life experiences with the community members they assist.

Community health workers also identify and address COVID-19 positive individuals' social needs to help them be socially isolated and remain housed.

The Utah Department of Health COVID Communities Partnership (CCP) is a program developed by the UDOH Office of Health Disparities. UDOH will use the funding to support the community-based organizations and local health departments that are a part of the CCP project.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we moved quickly to establish a response. Community health workers were identified as a necessary component to help mitigate the spread and effects of COVID-19 on underserved and underrepresented communities, particularly racial/ethnic minority communities,” said Dulce Diez, director of the Office of Health Disparities  at the Utah Department of Health.

“This project was funded by the CARES Act until December 2020. We could not stop the project at the end of the year leaving all these vulnerable families without help. Thanks to the altruism of Intermountain Healthcare and Maverik, we can keep the project running for the first part of 2021 until additional federal funding becomes available. “

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit communities of color disproportionality hard. In Utah, racial and ethnic minorities have the highest case rates, hospitalization rates, and mortality rates based on population sizes. Information obtained from the Utah Department of Health, as of December 18, 2020, show:

  • The Hispanic population accounted for 23.8 percent of COVID-19 cases in Utah while accounting for 14.2 percent of the state's population.
  • Hospitalization rates of Pacific Islanders/Hawaiian Natives were 91.1 per 1,000 cases of COVID-19 cases. This is double the statewide hospitalization rate of 40.1 per 1,000 cases.
  • Mortality rates of Native Americans — 68.0 per 100,000—are more than two times as high as the 29.6 per 100,000 mortality rate of white community members. 

“In many ways, community health workers have been the lifeline for countless individuals recovering from COVID-19. Their ability to connect community members with the precise resources they need to safely recover from the virus has helped out community get back on its feet,” said Mikelle Moore, senior vice president and chief community health officer for Intermountain Healthcare.  “We are honored to join Maverik in sustaining this vital resource to keep the pathway toward healing open to all those we serve.”

“As a family, and in honor of our Maverik team members, we have typically focused our charitable contributions on education. However, circumstances surrounding COVID-19 have created an urgency in our community that compels us. Thankfully, Intermountain informed us about the Utah Department of Health Communities Partnership program and the outcomes it’s achieving. We value this public – private partnership and hope it encourages our state to do more of this in the future,” said Chuck Maggelet, chief executive officer of Maverik, Inc.

COVID diagnoses could have unexpected impacts. Some cases could be minor, other cases could mean long hospitlizations or long term follow-up care. To some families, this could mean a loss of income, an inability to cover rent, groceries, and utilities, or create social stigma for the family.

When one of those areas wobbles, then falls, it can lead to a domino-effect chain reaction that's difficult to stop for many families and invididuals. These are known as the social determinants of health, non-medical factors that affect a person's health. The job of community Health Workers is to help stop the dominos from falling.

"Some people need access to groceries or assistance with utilities while they can't work. We visit with them, get to know their immediate needs, and provide the relief that allows them to focus on healing," said Leslie Salamanca Sotelo, a community health worker with the Association for Utah Community Health.

From May to November 2020, over 7,000 families received referrals to resources. In that same period, community health workers engaged in over 3,000 outreach activities resulting in a community reach of nearly two million Utahns.

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