HHS gives $32M to expand COVID-19 support for health centers
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday that it had awarded more than $32 million to 122 organizations that provide training and technical assistance to health centers.
The groups will use the funds to provide Health Resources and Service Administration Health Center Program-supported health centers with COVID-19-related training, technical assistance and health IT support.
"Our training and technical assistance partners help ensure that our health centers can provide COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccinations as effectively and efficiently as possible," said Acting HRSA Administrator Diana Espinosa in a statement.
WHY IT MATTERS
The 122 Primary Care Associations, National Training and Technical Assistance Partners and Health Center Controlled Networks will use the money to promote key access for health centers serving communities that have been hit particularly hard by the novel coronavirus.
According to HHS, 52 PCAs will receive about $16 million toward statewide and regional COVID-19 training and technical assistance, such as helping health centers provide high-quality preventive and primary healthcare services.
Twenty-one NTTAPs will receive $5.5 million total to provide national training and technical assistance activities in their specific areas of expertise.
And about $10.5 million will be awarded to 49 HCCNs to support and expand health centers' use of health IT and data in the context of COVID-19 response efforts.
More than 91% of HRSA-funded health center patients are living at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, and nearly 63% are people of color, according to the HHS.
Communities already suffering from systemic inequities have been especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19: Black, Latinx and Native people are disproportionately likely to be hospitalized and to die from the virus, and the vaccine rollout process has led to unequal levels of access throughout many cities.
This inequity has also extended to the indirect effects of COVID-19, with many people unable to connect to care providers via telehealth due to expensive internet bills or a lack of broadband infrastructure.
"This funding will promote access to key resources for health centers serving underserved communities that have been especially hard hit by COVID-19, including agricultural workers, rural populations, and people experiencing homelessness," said Espinosa.
THE LARGER TREND
This round of funding was made possible by the American Rescue Plan, which included a number of allocations aimed at expanding IT.
The legislation also set aside $500 million for a data modernization and forecasting center at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other allocations.
President Biden has signaled his support for further health IT expansion with his request for fiscal year 2022 discretionary funding, which included billions for public health data modernization, broadband and 5G expansion, social determinants of health and cybersecurity.
ON THE RECORD
"Health centers play a critical role in responding to COVID-19 in their communities,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement.
"This funding will help ensure that health centers serving medically underserved communities and those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 have the training and support they need to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccination, testing and treatment," he added.