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Ledge Light and Uncas health districts receive federal funding for vaccine equity

As part of federal funding Connecticut received to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations in underserved communities, Ledge Light Health District is getting $288,199 and Uncas Health District is receiving $214,369.

Gov. Ned Lamont and the Connecticut Department of Public Health announced Monday that 27 municipalities and local health departments, including Ledge Light and Uncas, have been selected to share more than $13 million to promote vaccine equity.

"Our goal with the vaccination program is to reach out to every Connecticut resident, particularly those who have historically been underserved when it comes to access to health care, transportation, or other challenges," Lamont said in a press release. "Everybody deserves the right to access these lifesaving vaccines."

DPH had solicited applications for the grant funding; each applicant had to identify community partners and describe activities with these partners to address vaccine equity.

The governor's office said these activities would include door-to-door and employer canvassing, train-the-trainer programs, canvassing in immigrant communities, transportation services, and vaccinations for the homebound and homeless.

Ledge Light Deputy Director Jennifer Muggeo said the health district's partners are Community Health Center, Hartford HealthCare, The Health Education Center, Thames Valley Council for Community Action and the Health Improvement Collaborative of Southeastern Connecticut.

"One of our partners may be focusing on the homebound population, another partner may be focused on school-aged populations, and another might be doing targeted clinics in underserved communities," said Steve Mansfield, director of health.

With vaccine supply now outstripping demand, Mansfield said this funding will go a long way as Ledge Light moves from a mass vaccination clinic model to a more targeted approach, and that most efforts will be pop-up clinics.

Ledge Light is holding a free walk-up vaccination clinic 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of New London, and 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in front of the Capitol Theater on Bank Street, for the city's Eat in the Street event.

Mansfield said the use of funds is a combination of increasing vaccine access and combating vaccine hesitancy, while Uncas Health District Director Patrick McCormack said these goals go hand in hand. Uncas Health District is subcontracting its work out to TVCCA and United Community & Family Services.

McCormack said one person who will be working on the grant, who is fluent in English and Haitian Creole, was helping at a vaccine clinic at St. Vincent de Paul Place on Monday during its food distribution.

He said in many cases, the organizations are adding hours onto an existing position or shifting someone's responsibilities for a period, as the contract is for May 1 through Aug. 31.

"I think there's a lot of good feeling about the work of the health districts at this time," McCormack said, "but our concern continues to be that we need sustainable funding, and we need to be prepared in advance of the next crisis, and we need the support to continue to maintain the work we're doing on a daily basis, and that doesn't come from a four-month grant."

The health districts get most of their funding from member municipalities and grants. The statutory allocation to health districts from the state is $1.85 per capita, but the legislature's Appropriations Committee is recommending a $0.75 per capita increase.

In his role as chairman of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, Ledyard Mayor Fred Allyn III on April 28 wrote to Lamont asking him to support this increase, saying the current allocation "is inadequate for them to perform the ever increasing demand for their services."

Mansfield said health districts haven't seen an increase in per-capita funding from the state in more than a decade, and have actually seen the statutory requirement underfunded.

McCormack noted that level funding isn't enough for the health district to keep up with increased costs of doing business, such as benefits, fuel and postage.


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