2020 Annual Report: A Transformative Year

Page 1


A Transformative Year

Mission. To improve the health and health care of the people and communities of western and central New York.

Vision. A healthy central and western New York where racial and socioeconomic equity are prioritized so all people can reach their full potential and achieve equitable health outcomes.

Board of Trustees 2020–2021


Lisa D. Alford

Marnie Annese Program Officer

Richard Battaglia, M.D. Chima Chionuma, M.D. Joseph J. Cozzo, At-Large Raymond R. D’Agostino Andrew Dorn Denise Dunford Leanne F. Fiscoe Cheryl Smith Fisher, Chair Carrie B. Frank Arthur R. Goshin, M.D., M.P.H (Advisor) Joanne E. Haefner Vincent J. Mancuso, Treasurer Marybeth K. McCall, M.D., Secretary David A. Milling, M.D. Ann Ziegler Sedore, Vice Chair Cynthia Rich Michael D. Shaffer, C.P.A

Pictured on cover: a family served by grantee Say Yes Buffalo

Carrie Whitwood Gary Williams

Jordan Bellassai Program Officer Coralie Brown Grants Officer Steve Copps Office Manager Leslie Daniel Executive Assistant to the President Kenneth M. Genewick Senior Program Officer for Caregiving Kerry Jones Waring Communications and Public Relations Officer Jessy Minney, PhD Program Development and Evaluation Manager Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD President Kent A.H. Olden Communications Content Manager Diane Oyler, PhD Vice President of Programs

Bringing Health Equity to the Forefront To our community of partners, We are proud to share this report following one of the most unusual and challenging years in recent memory. In 2020, the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York launched a new strategic plan and vision based on racial and socioeconomic equity. This, of course, was the same year that many in our country were confronting the realities of systemic racism and facing a pandemic that illuminated the stark disparities in our health care system. The disparate impact of COVID-19 made health care inequality more apparent than ever, but these unfair systems are nothing new. While the Health Foundation is pleased to be part of long-overdue conversations about the role we all must play in dismantling these barriers, we recognize these are issues that have been raised by the Black community for generations—and that many people in positions of power are only beginning to listen. As we enter 2021, we are pursuing our new vision with humility and a desire to listen, learn and adapt to ensure our work—which has always focused on improving the health of underserved communities—is centered on the ideals of racial and socioeconomic health equity. This report also recognizes and honors the critical work led by community-based organizations over the past year. These groups are the front line of an effort to mitigate the impact of health care inequities. The challenges of the pandemic put tremendous pressure on these organizations, but they have continued to meet the needs of the people they serve throughout this crisis. This year, it was common to hear the refrain, “Things will never be the same.”


That is true and, ultimately, a good thing. The question we are faced with now is: what will we do together to make things better for all people in our community? We are grateful to every community partner, advocate and leader who collaborated with us in 2020, and we look forward to working together again while forging new relationships in 2021 and beyond. Please enjoy this look back at the Health Foundation’s work in 2020. With thanks,

Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD

Cheryl Smith Fisher

President Chair, Board of Trustees


A New Vision for More Equitable Health Care In 2020, the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York announced a new strategic plan that will guide our work through 2025. While the Health Foundation’s mission remains to improve the health and health care of the people and communities of western and central New York, this plan resulted in a new organizational vision statement and goals to pursue that vision. The plan also reaffirms the Health Foundation’s commitment to both older adults and young children impacted by poverty,

A healthy central and western New York where racial and socioeconomic equity are prioritized so all people can reach their full potential and achieve equitable health outcomes.

We are pursuing our new vision through a set of long- and mid-term goals supported by strategies that include program development, grantmaking, community partnerships and convenings, capacity building and advocacy. We see our new plan as a natural evolution of our work because the Health Foundation has always focused on improving the health of underserved communities. Our new vision represents a sharpened, more specific approach that recognizes the role of race and socioeconomic status in health disparities.

Our Vision

along with the community-based organizations that serve them.

Our Theory of Change: Long- and Mid-Term Goals LO N G -TE R M G OA L 1



Individual well-being is


• Communities are equipped to deliver trauma-informed practices and invested

promoted and addressed

in preventing trauma

for both children and

• Children have access to high-quality

older adults.

social-emotional learning support • Social isolation and related behavioral-health issues among older adults and caregivers are addressed





• CBOs are financially sustainable, strong and working collaboratively with health and

organizations (CBO)

other systems

and health systems

• Communities and health systems are working

are collaborative

collaboratively to become age-friendly

and sustainable.



Racial and socioeconomic equity are prioritized, and all people are served by trusted, unbiased, high-quality care.



• Equitable care and insurance are available and accessible for all people • All mothers are served by trusted, unbiased, high-quality infant and maternal health care • Family caregivers of older adults are valued and supported

Our Commitment to Racial and Socioeconomic Equity Racial and socioeconomic health disparities are the result of unfair and inequitable systems of power that have existed since our country’s founding. We have a collective, moral imperative to do all we can to dismantle these barriers to good health. The health inequities experienced by communities of color and low-income populations in both regions, including urban and rural areas, are clear and, in some cases, increasing over time. The Health Foundation has committed to improving regional health outcomes with a specific focus on these populations. Our team recognizes this will require a long-term and rigorous commitment to developing and instituting organizational policies, practices and behaviors based on the principles of racial and socioeconomic equity. We are approaching our new work in racial and socioeconomic equity with a sense of humility and acknowledging that we have a great amount to learn from community leaders in these areas. While we are at the beginning of an ongoing journey of learning and improvement, our initial efforts will include (but are not limited to)

 Engaging with, listening to and learning from experts and leaders in racial and socioeconomic health equity  Proactively building new relationships with grassroots organizations that may have previously faced barriers to working with the philanthropic community  Using our platform to advocate for positive change and challenge policies that perpetuate unfair systems and inequities in health care



The Health Foundation’s new vision is the result of an extensive process that included meeting with, listening to and reviewing

25 35 50 nonprofit and



public sector


articles and


data sources

The process also included a series of focus groups and workshop sessions with Health Foundation staff and trustees. The resulting information was the basis for a new strategic plan that seeks to address the highest priority health needs in our region by building on our existing strengths and developing new ways of meeting those needs.

Responding to COVID-19 When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt in March 2020, frontline workers at health care and community-based


organizations stepped up to continue meeting the community’s needs. We are grateful for the ongoing dedication and courage we witness from our nonprofit community throughout this crisis, and will continue to advocate for programs, initiatives and legislative efforts that support a resilient network of community organizations. Throughout the pandemic, the Health Foundation has collaborated on a multifaceted effort to support these frontline heroes and address the most critical needs with a coordinated response to this crisis.

Compassionate Collaboration in Central New York The Health Foundation joined efforts in the central New York region in several ways, including supporting relief funds in Onondaga, Cortland, Mohawk and Tompkins counties. In Onondaga County, we partnered with the Central

Community-Wide Effort in Western New York In western New York, we joined with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the John R. Oishei Foundation and the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County as lead partners on the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund. The Fund awarded more than $13.1 million in grants to 400+ nonprofit organizations serving all eight counties of western New York, thanks to the support of 90 foundations and corporations and nearly 2,000 individual donors. These funds were used to meet the most critical needs in the early stage of the pandemic.

Together initiative, which awards grants for innovative ideas to address long-term and systemic challenges exacerbated

Learn more about Moving Forward Together 

Central New York, Allyn Family Foundation, The Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman Foundation, the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County to establish a COVID-19 Community Support Fund to serve the greater Syracuse region. The Fund helped to meet the needs of nonprofit organizations working with communities who were disproportionately impacted by the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. With the support of these partners and the central New York community, the fund distributed $1.8 million in vital funding that was immediately deployed to

The Fund led to the development of the Moving Forward

by the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York Community Foundation, United Way of

support the greatest needs in health, human services, mental health, food, childcare, transportation and support for frontline responders. Read the Central New York Community Foundation’s Report to the Community 


Ongoing Partnership Through Crisis The economic downturn put a unique stress on nonprofit organizations that typically rely on individual donors and state or federal funding to operate. Throughout the pandemic, the Health Foundation’s goal has been to remain responsive to help address the burden these organizations are facing. This included easing reporting requirements for active grantees during the peak of the crisis and allowing grant recipients to use funds for their most critical needs, even if they were earmarked originally for other purposes.

Impact: How COVID-19 Relief Funds Helped “We work in high-risk neighborhoods on the east and west side of Buffalo to reduce infant mortality

As critical needs emerged in the early stages of the pandemic, we collaborated with grantees on several innovative projects, including  Supporting Hearts & Hands as they mobilized volunteers to meet food-delivery needs and wellness calls for the older adults they serve— see page 18 for details

and low-birth-weight infants. The funds [were] used to provide basic necessities to our clients, including diapers, wipes, food, toiletries, thermometers and hand

 Funding the Center for Elder Law and Justice’s Health Care Advocacy Unit, enabling their attorneys and paralegals to provide assistance to older adults and their loved ones in matters related to managed long-term care, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance  Partnering with the CBO Consortium of Upstate New York to bring technical assistance to community organizations dealing with urgent technical needs such as transitioning services and operations to a virtual setting—see page 24 for details

sanitizer… We also used the funds for changes to our office to make it safer for staff. Thank you to all those who donated; your generosity is helping our mission of healthy mothers and babies!” BUFFALO PRENATAL PERINATAL NETWORK

 Working with Western New York Integrated Care Collaborative to expand their evidence-based program, Healthy IDEAs, a one-to-one health coaching program to address depression symptoms in older adults. With this support, WNYICC helped address the growing need for these services associated with the COVID-19 pandemic Toward the end of 2020, we worked to elevate the voices of the community organizations that were hit hardest by financial and operational strain by asking them to share first-hand accounts of the challenges they were facing. The responses we received greatly informed our efforts to implore our elected officials to continue providing comprehensive relief throughout the pandemic. Read what we learned from those organizations  The impact of COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis will be felt for a long time. We remain committed to partnering on solutions for the acute stages of this crisis, even as we work to address the long-term issues that cause barriers to health equity.



Using Our Voice for Change: Advocacy Work in 2020 At the Health Foundation, we believe that access to universal, affordable, high-quality health care is a human right. In 2017, we set a goal of supporting work that achieves universal health coverage for all people in New York by the year 2027. This goal is closely aligned with our new strategic plan and vision, as health care justice is closely linked with racial and socioeconomic justice. Lack of access to high-quality, affordable health care is a significant contributor to racial disparities in health outcomes. In pursuit of that goal, we use our platform in a number of ways, including:

 Encouraging our elected officials to expand coverage and make it easier for people to access health insurance  Defending and helping to increase the reach of existing programs  Working in partnership with other advocates to mobilize support for universal health care  Continuing to contribute to public education efforts related to these efforts In addition to universal health coverage, we have spoken up for policy changes that could improve the health of people in our regions and across New York State, such as calling for a fully funded, strong Medicaid program and initiatives that help reach people who are eligible for health coverage but uninsured. We have advocated against regulatory changes that could have a negative impact on quality or access to care, such as the proposed 340b pharmacy carve-out in the New York State budget that could harm community health centers’ ability to serve low-income communities. In 2020, our advocacy platform expanded as we pushed for comprehensive COVID-19 relief programs that would ease the burden on individuals, families and community-based organizations. Some of these legislative priorities include increasing funding for SNAP and Medicaid programs, bolstering federal funding for states and localities, and ensuring nonprofit organizations could benefit from any relief programs for small businesses.


Highlights of Our 2020 Advocacy Work Physicians for a National Health Program’s “Story of Self” workshops, first piloted in central New York, empower people to share personal stories of how the current health care system has failed them. With a grant from the Health Foundation, PNHP brought these workshops to all 16 counties we served in 2020. Going forward, PNHP is using the stories and knowledge gained from these workshops to expand efforts that help individuals become better health care policy advocates, including trainings on telling their personal health care stories using social media and through letters to the editor. On October 7, the Health Foundation partnered with the League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara and Buffalo Toronto Public Media to present “Election 2020 and Your Health Care: What to Know Before You Vote.” The virtual panel event focused on the potential impact of the 2020 presidential election on health care access, and included insight from health policy experts Elisabeth Benjamin of Community Service Society of New York; Bill Hammond of Empire Center for Public Policy; Lara Kassel of Medicaid Matters New York; Katie Robbins of Campaign for New York Health; and Melva D. Visher of Canisius College. Dave Debo, News Director at WBFO, moderated the discussion.

What’s Next With a new presidential administration in place and an ever-evolving dynamic at the state level, we recognize the importance of responsiveness in our specific strategies while continuing our pursuit of improving and expanding health care access for people across New York. In 2021, we will continue to partner with advocacy groups and grassroots organizations working toward our shared goal of universal health care, use our voice to raise awareness of the importance of these issues, and remain steadfast in our efforts to help more people gain access to the high-quality health care they deserve and need. Our

 Continuing our work

 Supporting programs and

 Advocating for


in reaching the eligible

efforts that strengthen

affordability in health care,


but uninsured. This work

health navigators’ ability

recognizing that the fear


began previously with

to connect people with

of high premiums and

our Reaching the Five

health coverage. In

co-pays and the burden of

Percent report, an

early 2021, we assisted

medical debt are frequent

analysis led by United

Community Service

deterrents for people

Hospital Fund and funded

Society of New York in

seeking care, including

by the Health Foundation

securing a $250,000 grant

those with existing health

that examined barriers

from the Mother Cabrini

insurance coverage.

to health insurance for

Foundation to assist

those who are currently

with this work. We will

eligible but not enrolled

continue the partnership

in coverage.

on these efforts.

By the Numbers: 2020 Grants and Programs Funded Distribution of Over $4.4 Million in Funds:

$1.4 million Investing

in central New York

$3 million in western New York



in COVID-19 relief funds

Breakdown by Long-Term Goals Breakdown by Focus Area


in Our 2020-25 Strategic Plan


Older adults

Children impacted by poverty




35% or $1,530,037 L O N G -T E R M G O A L 1 :

Individual well-being is promoted and addressed for both children and older adults

24% or $1,086,824

Other $382,786

L O N G -T E R M G O A L 2 : Communitybased organizations and health systems are collaborative and sustainable

27% or $1,189,497


Community health capacity

L O N G -T E R M G O A L 3 : Racial and socioeconomic equity are prioritized, and all people are served by trusted, unbiased, high-quality care

14% or $602,920 O T H E R


The Health Foundation’s funding allocation is 69 percent in western New York and 31 percent in central New York. This allocation was determined by the size of the regional health plans that were the source of our original endowment. Learn more about our history on our website.

New Grants Awarded in 2020

Catchafire Services for WNY/CNY CBOs Providing Catchafire’s volunteer services to dozens of community-based organizations in western and central New York during the COVID-19 crisis.

To learn more about these grants, visit hfwcny.org.

Center for Elder Law & Justice ($125,000) CALL to Action: Community Information

Supporting CELJ’s Health Care Unit, providing

Exchange ($200,000)

legal advice and counsel on issues concerning access to Medicare, Medicaid and managed long-

Enabling Healthy Community Alliance to build

term care—vital services during the pandemic.

upon work done under DSRIP to address the need for better data systems and promote a community-wide project to build a Community Information Exchange.

Co-Creating Well-Being Implementation Grants ($1.7M Total) Thirteen projects led by community-based

CALL to Action: Increasing Health Literacy

organizations that are developing and testing new


approaches to trauma-informed care for children.

Helping ten participating organizations identify and support champions to work within their organizations and surrounding communities to advance practices that promote health literacy.

Read more on page 20 PEDALS CNY Hub Development & Expansion ($117,000) Expanding the PEDALS social-emotional learning program into additional Onondaga County

CALL to Action: Project SECURE ($197,000) Supporting family caregivers by enhancing the role of in-home paid care providers; ensuring in-home providers receive a fair wage and have career opportunities in an industry where more than half the workforce are people of color.

classrooms; identifying local partners; and developing a hub to oversee and coordinate PEDALS activities in Onondaga County and beyond. COVID-19 Community Funds $345,000 to the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund, and an additional $25,000 to

CALL to Action: Safe Sleep ($200,000) Enhancing provider coordination and improving

support a microgrants program through that fund.

the effectiveness of safe-sleep training and

$155,000 to the CNY COVID-19 Community

messaging by convening a cross-sector Safe Sleep

Support Fund serving Onondaga County.

Advisory Group and the creation of a Safe Sleep Community Coordinator to work across Erie County. CALL to Action: Transportation and Support ($200,000) Expanding and improving the reach of Hearts & Hands’ services into the City of Buffalo, Lancaster, Cheektowaga and East Aurora over the next two years.

$14,000 to the United Way of Cortland County and Cortland Community Foundation’s Cortland Cares COVID Fund. $24,000 to the United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica’s COVID-19 Response Fund. $10,000 to the Community Foundation of Tompkins County — COVID 19 Fund.


DEI Advancement Fund Workgroup ($50,000)

Say Yes Buffalo ($156,000)

Establishing a workgroup to co-design the criteria

Supporting the Health Home Care Coordinators

and parameters of a future fund that will support

program. Read more on page 21

DEI advancement in grantee organizations; also includes grants of $15,000 each to Population

Universal Health Care Advocacy ($180,000)

Health Collaborative and CCNY to support the

Supporting the Health Foundation’s work

development of DEI initiatives.

advocating for high-quality, affordable, universal Erie County Doula Pilot Project ($46,000)

health coverage. Read more on page 10

Led by Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center.

WBFO Older Adults News Desk ($60,000)

Read more on page 22

A dedicated Older Adults News Desk beat reporter CBO Consortium of Upstate NY Tech Readiness Project ($99,000)

provides listeners with in-depth feature and spot news reporting to ensure issues related to older adults receive the attention and awareness

Enabling the Healthy Community Alliance and

they deserve.

the CBO Consortium of Upstate New York to help build the technical capacity of regional communitybased organizations. Read more on page 24

Healthy IDEAS ($66,000) Enabling WNYICC to expand Healthy IDEAs,

Transportation, Delivery and Social Connections Task Force ($35,000)

one-to-one health coaching to address depression symptoms in older adults, to meet the growing need for these services during the pandemic

Led by Hearts and Hands – Faith In Action in partnership with Erie County Senior Services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This work led to the CALL to Action transportation grant

WNY and CNY Grantee Staff Support Funds ($24,000) Supporting the mental health and overall well-being

previously noted.

of staff at Health Foundation grantee organizations Healthy Connections from the Start ($62,870)

facing the stress and challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic

Led by Integrated Community Alternatives Network, this program supports families with young children in Oneida County involved in family court by providing weekly, no-cost supervised visitation sessions for non-custodial parents. Parkway Center ($15,000) Supporting the development and launch of online health and wellness programming for older adults served by the center. Read more on page 19


2020 Grants $10,000 or Under Art Moves Me

Parkway Center

Baby Café

Parish Outreach Center

Baby Supplies Drive Thru

Planning Support for Community Service Organizations

Buffalo Center for Health Equity

Social Work Practice Fellows

Chautauqua County Office for Aging

South Buffalo Community Association

Collaboration Support for Live Well WNY

(via Moving Forward Together initiative)

Collaborative Intersectional Collective Alliance

St. Luke Health Services

for Better Senior Care

Syracuse Community Center Collaborative

Community at Sunset Wood


Community Concern

Syracuse Jewish Family Services

Early Childhood Alliance Technology Pack Feed

Veterans One-Stop Center of WNY, Inc. (via Moving

Buffalo – AmeriCorps LISC

Forward Together initiative)

GNA Cognitive Screening Tool


Grantmakers in Aging – Fund the Future

YMCA Buffalo Niagara

Grassroots Garden WNY Hamilton Senior Citizens, Inc. Healthy Community Alliance - CBO Consortium Human Services Leadership Council Leukemia and Lymphoma Society— Transportation Assistance Long Term Care Community Coalition Love Living at Home Manlius Senior Activity Center Food Program Movers and Makers — Art at Home New York Funders Alliance Olmsted Center for Sight Onondaga County Emotional Support Outreach


Measuring Impact

Bringing Support Home: Helping Older Adults During COVID-19 The Health Foundation’s focus on helping older adults live healthy, independent lives in their communities took on new meaning during 2020. The COVID-19 virus was especially dangerous for older people, and social distancing methods, while necessary for stemming the spread of the pandemic, put them at a greater risk for social isolation. The work of our partners in the community who are seeking to address these issues was more important than ever.

G R A N T E E S P O T L I G H T:

Hearts & Hands—Faith in Action, Inc. Through their Neighbor Helping Neighbor Volunteer Program, Hearts & Hands has been able to provide free escorted transportation and basic chore help for older and/ or disabled adults in rural and suburban Erie and Niagara Counties. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, they saw the need to do more. Through a 2020 grant from the Health Foundation as part of the Health Leadership Fellows’ CALL to Action initiative, Hearts & Hands collaborated with Erie County Department of Senior Services and the University at Buffalo’s IDEA Center to begin expanding the reach and capacity of its programming to new areas in western New York.

“I received a call from a woman who lives in South Dakota whose father lives in Kenmore. His wife—who handled all of his errands up until that point—had recently been moved to a care facility,” Aaron recalls. “The daughter knew she could order food deliveries and rides through the Uber app, but she said it didn’t provide the same comfort and reassurance that the volunteers at Hearts & Hands provided. We’re happy to say that her father is still a very satisfied care receiver with us.” Looking to the future, Hearts & Hands’ goal is to ensure that mobility options for their care receivers remain open, diverse and flexible.

“When the pandemic hit, we really wanted to expand into the City of Buffalo and throughout more of Erie County,” says Aaron Carlson, Hearts & Hands Executive Director. “It was essential that we continue to provide residents with transportation for things like medical appointments and grocery deliveries and pickup. We also established a Phone-A-Pal program between our volunteers and the older adults to prevent the isolation they’ve been experiencing as a result of the pandemic.” The funding that Hearts & Hands received from the Health Foundation allowed them to extend their reach into the community, onboarding 90 new volunteers for 200 new care receivers (in a very short span of time) who can provide detailed deliveries.


G R A N T E E S P O T L I G H T:

Parkway Center Located in Utica, the Parkway Center has been providing programs and services to individuals ages 50+ for over 60 years. From health and wellness to social and recreational activities, Parkway’s programming empowers its participants to live healthy and vibrant lives. For community-based organizations like Parkway, the pandemic presented a number of challenges. “At Parkway, we provide access to programs that ensure health and wellness to participants to remain independent as long as possible,” says Kelly Walters, Executive Director of Parkway Center. “Socialization keeps older adults healthy both mentally and physically, and the fitness program is a key component to what we do.”

“We have an 85-year-old member who could email but wasn’t sure how exactly to use Zoom [for our virtual fitness sessions],” says Kelly. “The more virtual sessions we had, the easier it came to her. Now she rushes off the phone with her daughter so that she can log on to Zoom for any of our virtual sessions!” That member became so comfortable with her new virtual reality that she now leads a crafting class for Parkway via Zoom. Parkway continues to find creative and innovative ways to connect as many people to programs as they can. That connection leaves a lasting impact on the health and well-being of its members, helping them live healthy, active and independent lives.

In order to meet those needs in a safe and virtual way, the Parkway team developed and launched a series of virtual program offerings, including Zoom workshops and support groups, as well as a YouTube channel to provide on-demand fitness classes. A grant from the Health Foundation is enabling Parkway to continue enhancing and expanding their online offerings to ensure the health and wellness needs of their members are met throughout the pandemic and beyond.


Providing Opportunities for Children to Thrive in the New Normal All children deserve the same opportunities to have a healthy, strong start to life. That’s why the Health Foundation continues to support programs and projects that improve the lives and health of young children impacted by poverty. We are proud to be a part of several programs and projects that are making a difference for children and families in western and central New York, even in the face of COVID-19-related obstacles.

G R A N T E E S P O T L I G H T:

Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga County Launched in 2015 after a citizen-driven study revealed the importance of providing children the opportunities to “thrive by five,” the Early Childhood Alliance is a coalition of

“We really want families to believe in this program and fully participate in it,” says Gina Iliev, Director of Family & Community Initiatives. “It’s quicker for families to share

stakeholders dedicated to the success of all young children

information with each other as opposed to having an

in school and life. The ECA provides a wide array of support

agency lecture them. The program provides a mechanism

to the families of young children, equipping them with

for family members to train to become peer support

the knowledge and skills necessary to establish healthy,

specialists themselves, working side by side with other

nurturing environments in which their children can thrive.

specialists and coordinators.”

The ECA was one of 13 organizations to receive a grant as

The program gives families a voice and helps rebalance

part of phase three of Co-Creating Well-Being, a Health

power back to the community. “We want to serve as

Foundation program aimed at developing and testing new

a model on how to work with the community instead of

approaches to trauma-informed care for children using a human-centered design approach.

displaying a trickle-down power approach,” says Gina. “No one chooses to be in poverty, and these issues need

Participating in CCWB helped the ECA develop a program called THRIVE that gives parents the opportunity to take

to be fixed.” Read more about all 13 Co-Creating Well-Being grantees 

the lead in their lives and in their communities through peer-to-peer support groups. These groups aim to address isolation, mental health needs and a variety of other issues related to toxic stress and trauma. THRIVE includes a Parent Advisory Committee made up of participating families to ensure the inclusion of participant input, based on the notion, “How do you know what we need if you don’t ask us?”


G R A N T E E S P O T L I G H T:

Say Yes Buffalo Established in 2011 as a means of investing in the education

With support from the Health Foundation in early 2020,

of Buffalo’s future workforce, Say Yes Buffalo focuses on

Say Yes was able to take on two new Family Support

ensuring that students graduate high school and college

Specialists, including one who is bilingual. These specialists

with proper support systems, resources and opportunities.

are trained to assist students to work toward required and family driven service goals.

Say Yes’s Health Home Care Coordination program provides medical and social support to children who attend

Partnerships with a number of organizations, including

Buffalo Public Schools, are enrolled in Medicaid and are

Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, help the Say Yes team

between the ages of 0-21. The services provided include

identify potential participants. Fifteen new students were

assessing the child’s health goals, assistance in obtaining

enrolled in 2020 in total, and the team is expecting an

appointments and coordination of care delivery with

increase with the return of in-person schooling. Currently,

medical professionals and connections to community-

enrolled students are 100 percent up to date with well

based supports.

visits and immunizations.

“We’re really looking to alleviate any obstacles that the students and their families may face due to a lack of

“The impact of our program has been expanded on a wide scale given the virtual learning students have to participate

communication among different service providers,” says

in due the pandemic,” says Amanda. “It really has provided

Amanda Paul, Senior Director of School-Based Services.

an alternate segue for families to receive the help that

“Our goal is to successfully graduate a child from the

they need.”

program after achieving improved health and well-being, so that an academic and professional career of achievement is the outcome.”


Breaking Down Barriers to Doula Access for Black Moms Disparities in maternal health outcomes are a national crisis. Black women in the United States are more than three times more likely to die from childbirth-related complications than their white counterparts. A number of systemic factors contribute to these rates, including bias in health care delivery and barriers to health coverage.

G R A N T E E S P O T L I G H T:

Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center A new program, funded by the Health Foundation in 2020 and led by the Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center (ENAHEC), is working to change the odds for Black mothers in western New York. The program’s aim is to expand the capacity of the Erie County Doula Task Force and the New York State Department of Health Doula Pilot Program to improve maternal and infant health disparities among Medicaid eligible mothers in Erie County. Danise Wilson, ENAHEC’s Executive Director, explained why increasing access to doulas could make a difference for Black mothers. “Research is clear that having a doula can greatly increase a mother’s chance for healthy birth outcomes,” says Danise. “Doula access is linked with a decrease in Caesarean section rates, pre-term births, and a number of other complications. But usually, doula services are very costly, and it is hard for low-income women and those who are enrolled in Medicaid to have the same access to them.” ENAHEC’s doula program is multifaceted and aims to  Recruit and train more Black women to become doulas  Increase community knowledge and understanding of the importance of doula access  Educate health care providers on the role of doulas in maternal care  Provide support and education to doulas to help them navigate the complexities of the Medicaid system

So far, the program has trained over 22 new doulas, all of whom are people of color, and connected dozens of mothers with these services. This work also includes partnerships with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and the March of Dimes. Future goals include developing a website and toolkits to help mothers learn more about and connect with doulas. Long term, the ENAHEC team hopes the program will lead to a sustainable model that could include Medicaid reimbursement for these services. “Ultimately, we want to save Black moms and Black babies, and low-income moms and babies,” says Danise. “I know by growing the doula community we can get closer to that goal.”

A mother who participated in the doula program shared the following testimonial:

“Having a doula helped me so much. Not only was this woman going to help me through pregnancy, but she was also going to help bring my daughter Earthside and help me in the postpartum stage! Knowing that I had a doula who knew my birth plan and could advocate for me when I might have been too weak or too out of it to do so myself put my mind at ease. Doulas don’t work for you; they work with you to make sure that your birth plan is followed! I’m thankful for my doula—she was the best!”



Building a Resilient Network to Serve the Community’s Health Needs The Health Foundation has long believed in the importance of increasing community health capacity—the ability of our region’s nonprofit organizations and health care systems to meet the needs of the people they serve. In 2020, the significance of that work became clearer than ever as resources, funding and support for health care and community-based organizations were severely strained by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis. We are proud to have supported several initiatives in 2020 that are meeting the most pressing needs of community-based organizations during the pandemic, while continuing to support programming that takes a long-term approach to increasing community health capacity.

G R A N T E E S P O T L I G H T:

The CBO Consortium of Upstate New York The CBO Consortium of Upstate New York was founded in 2018 by Healthy Community Alliance Inc. to support community-based organizations in the rapidly transforming health care and wellness delivery system. “Rapidly transforming” was an understatement for many of these organizations this year. When the pandemic first began to make an impact on our community, the Health Foundation asked the CBO Consortium to survey their members to determine their most significant needs. The results showed that many community-based organizations urgently needed assistance in technical infrastructure and capacity. “These organizations were facing a variety of challenges— budget cuts, staffing reductions and, often, an increase in demand for services—plus a huge learning curve in moving their work to a virtual environment,” says Tony Sanfilippo, CBO Consortium Manager. In response, the CBO Consortium collaborated with the Health Foundation to launch a series of tech-readiness webinars that offered expert advice and counseling on a number of topics addressing those technical challenges.

“At first, we were hearing organizations saying they needed help with the basics—setting up cloud storage, holding meetings by video conference,” says Tony. “As the pandemic progressed, and these groups moved into the next stage of response, their challenges—and our programming—became more complex, including cybersecurity issues, moving to online fundraisers, and how to stay on mission in a virtual world.” The CBO Consortium’s upcoming plans include a toolkit and self-assessment for community-based organizations to identify their IT maturity level—their current capacity for technological readiness—and how they can continue improving their readiness.

“EPIC staff have benefited from the sessions and collaborations that have been offered through the CBO Consortium. As we move forward in this new world, we are thankful for the collective learning and opportunities shared through this group.” -TARA BURGESS, EVERY PERSON INFLUENCES CHILDREN (EPIC)


P R O G R A M S P O T L I G H T:

Fellows Action Network’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee

The Fellows Action Network (FAN), a group of more than 300 professionals from western and central New York who have graduated from the Health Leadership Fellows program, faced the same challenges many other organizations did in 2020. Before the pandemic began, Population Health Collaborative was awarded a grant from the Health Foundation to manage the FAN. Karen Hall, PHC’s Director of Programs, says that one of their first priorities was formalizing and enhancing the FAN’s steering committee and making sure it reflected the network as a whole. “When we reached out to the network to recruit new steering committee members, we were very transparent about our commitment to bringing in a diverse group— in race, gender and geography,” says Karen. When summer 2020 brought critically important conversations around racial equity to the forefront, the FAN was no exception. “In any of our virtual FAN meetups, the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact of racism were main points of discussion,” says Karen. “The FAN Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice committee organically came out of those conversations.”

Danise Wilson, a graduate of Cohort 9, Executive Director of the Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center, and co-chair of the FAN DEIJ committee, notes the importance of this work. “In my work and personal life, I see how racial disparities impact the communities we serve,” says Danise. “We have the opportunity to develop the FAN membership, enabling them to recognize systemic inequities, be educated and empowered within their organizations, and create intentional decisions and policies to advance this work. DEIJ will better align FAN with the priorities of the communities we serve, helping to address social determinants and health disparities.” The DEIJ committee hopes the long-term impact of their work will be measurable systemic change. “We will be tracking how DEIJ-centered policies are developed and embedded in the organizations we serve,” says Karen. “In general, we have work policies about sick time, leave, all types of things—why don’t we have embedded policies about equity so it can become the norm?”

The DEIJ committee’s mission is “to become a major influencer on issues of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the Fellows Advocacy Network in western and central New York in order to advocate for continuous improvement in health and health care.”


Rethinking Respite: Innovative Approaches to Supporting Family Caregivers Family caregivers typically face unique challenges. The responsibilities of that role bring physical, emotional, mental and financial stress, as well as the risk of social isolation to both caregivers and their loved ones. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these issues. The Health Foundation is proud of our ongoing partnership with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to support programs and initiatives that improve the lives of family caregivers and the people they care for. In 2020, we supported a number of these initiatives, including many that recognize how family caregiver needs have changed as a result of the pandemic. Read an overview of our 2020 caregiver programming

G R A N T E E S P O T L I G H T:

Relatives as Parents Program at PEACE Inc. The Health Foundation has partnered with the Brookdale Foundation to provide grants to community-based organizations in western and central New York in support of Relatives as Parents Programs (RAPP). These programs provide support, guidance and respite opportunities for grandparents or other relatives who serve as the main caregiver for children whose biological parents are unable to provide that care. In central New York, PEACE Inc.’s family resource coordinator Shelly Kasprzak oversees their RAPP program serving the western suburbs of Syracuse. Before the pandemic, their RAPP programming would include twicemonthly support meetings. When social distancing made it harder to get together in person, Shelly made sure to find new ways for their grandparent caregivers to stay connected.

“Throughout it all, I’ve kept in touch with our families. Some would come into our food pantry, and for those who couldn’t, we’d arrange to have food delivered to their home,” says Shelly. Over the summer, the group was able to safely meet in the park—wearing masks and practicing social distancing—to take in a cooking demonstration with Cornell Cooperative Extension. At that meeting, Shelly also gave kids backpacks full of back-to-school supplies, thermometers and other gear. One of the key benefits of PEACE Inc.’s RAPP program is the sense of community, especially during a pandemic that has increased the risk of social isolation for many. “One grandmother shared with me that this is the only time she gets out in the community,” says Shelly. “The programming gives her a chance to share her struggles with other grandparents, get advice and not feel so alone.”


G R A N T E E S P O T L I G H T:

West Falls Center for the Arts Memory Café West Falls Center for the Arts provides access to the arts to people of all ages in a rural community in western New York. Their Memory Café program was initially launched as a bi-monthly respite opportunity for family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Memory Café is a chance for family caregivers to spend time with their loved ones in a relaxing setting, meet other caregivers and enjoy activities like card games and a catered lunch. When staff members added musical performances by the Center’s artists to the program, they knew they had developed something special. “Very quickly, we could see the concerts meant a lot to the people who attended. One woman said she saw her husband smile for the first time in a very long time when listening to the live music,” says Carolyn Panzica, Executive Director of the Center. “One of our attendees typically uses a wheelchair because he has trouble walking. When he hears the live music, he stands up and dances with his wife.” Carolyn and her team took part in the Communities Care Respite Pilot Program, an effort to fund innovative, collaborative projects that aim to increase respite opportunities for family caregivers of older adults in rural western New York and beyond. Communities Care is funded by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Health Foundation and managed by The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) with support from Teresa Lawrence of International Deliverables.

“Taking part in Communities Care helped us continue developing and enhancing Memory Café,” says Carolyn. “We really benefited from the opportunity to connect with experts, both locally and at the national level.” Participation in this pilot program helped Memory Café expand their existing model for older adults living with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia and their caregivers, while also developing a new model designed for isolated older adults that will pair them up with volunteer caregivers in the community. COVID-19 forced the West Falls Center for the Arts team to develop safe, innovative ways of presenting Memory Café. Their methods have included bringing personalized “porch concerts” to the homes of people they serve, holding safe, socially distant concerts with limited capacity and streaming concerts live on Facebook. During the 2020 holiday season, a group of Canisius High School students, including Carolyn’s son, organized a caroling outing to bring Christmas cheer—and cookies—to family caregivers at home. “We are building a community through this program,” says Carolyn. “Our hope is that we’ll continue to grow and will be able to reach other types of caregivers and isolated older adults in the future.”

photo taken pre-pandemic



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