Health Equity Fund Spotlight: Daily Planet Health Services    

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of the newest Health Equity Fund (HEF) recipients. The HEF—which is administered by the Richmond and Henrico Public Health Foundation and supported by the City of Richmond and RHHD—announced its most recent round of funding last month. Recipients applied for dedicated funding in one of the HEF’s key focus areas, including substance use disorder, maternal and child health, and food access, among others. Applicants were selected in conversation with the Community Advisory Committee and RHPHF’s board.

One new HEF recipient—but long-time RHHD partner—is Daily Planet Health Services (DPHS). A community health center serving Richmond and surrounding counties, DPHS primarily serves individuals experiencing homelessness and housing instability, as well as those living in and around public housing, in shared housing (ex. doubling up), and those living with HIV. DPHS turns 55 years old in 2024 and is one of the oldest healthcare for the homeless providers in the country—and the only one of its kind in Virginia.

Director of Development Sarah Tunner says that Daily Planet’s philosophy focuses on “Treating each person as a person. Just because you’re experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness does not mean your needs deserve less attention or lesser quality of care. I would say we probably provide greater care, service, and access because all our services are under one roof. Your medical provider, behavioral health clinician, psychiatrist, dentist, case manager, they’re all here. Treating that whole person comes across very differently here because we can treat all of these things in one place.”

DPHS is a federally qualified health center, receiving funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the primary federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. Funding from HRSA only covers 23% of the organization’s current operating budget. Sarah says partnerships like the one with the Health Equity Fund are essential for Daily Planet to operate at its full capacity.

Daily Planet’s HEF proposal focused on behavioral and mental health, adding a Behavioral Health Care Coordinator to their already robust team of behavioral health specialists, medical providers, and case managers. “We’re extremely grateful to be able to get this position off the ground with such an exceptional person in the role and to see it already making an impact,” Sarah says.

That exceptional person is Emma Snearer, a recent VCU graduate who joined Daily Planet’s team as a mental health clinician intern and stayed on when the Behavioral Health Care Coordinator role became available. Emma describes her position as one that is constantly shifting based on patient needs, and where “meeting people where they’re at” is the guiding principle. Her day-to-day might look like conducting initial triage appointments with new clients, helping Daily Planet’s psychiatrist determine which patients are facing challenges reaching appointments and sustaining a particular medication, sitting with someone who needs emergency housing or medical services, or popping over to a medical or case management appointment to connect a client to behavioral health services through a “warm handoff” process.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patricia Cook says that Emma’s work in those warm handoffs has been “a huge success”: “It feels like you need that warm handoff every day of the week. When you’re working with someone who needs immediate behavioral health support, there’s a little thrill when Emma says, ‘I can be there in five minutes.’”

Whether she’s meeting a new patient or guiding an existing client into behavioral services, Emma helps the person anticipate barriers and connect to key resources. “I talk to people about solutions for keeping appointments and moving toward wellness goals,” she says. “Ultimately, the idea is for them to feel confident to take on next steps.” And, if a client mentions needing help with housing, employment, or navigating benefits in an initial meeting, Emma knows exactly where to go next: “I’m able to reach out to our walk-in case management services and say “OK, we’re going to complete this triage, and then I’m gonna have you walk over to case management. A lot of times I’ll walk them over and help explain to case management what they’re looking for. Same with medical—it’s just helpful that it’s right downstairs or right next door.”

Emma thinks of her HEF-funded position as an “opening point” for patients to develop permanent relationships at Daily Planet: “I want people to feel like this is a therapist they could see for years, and these are the providers that they will connect with forever. I want patients to feel comfortable and respected, and I know the team here does a great job with that.”

If you, or someone you know, would like to access the services and resources provided by DPHS, you can make an appointment by calling 804-783-2505. You can also walk-in to 511 West Grace Street Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. for medical and case management services. Walk-in behavioral health triage appointments are available on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings at 517 West Grace Street. Additional information and eligibility criteria can be found on the Patient Registration webpage.

If you are interested in learning more about the mission of Daily Planet Health Services, from a partnership or support perspective, please contact Sarah Tunner, Director of Development, at (804) 783-2505 x2101. 

Get to know Amy Popovich, RHHD’s Outstanding Woman!

On Feb. 1, YWCA Richmond announced its 2024 Class of Outstanding Women Awards Honorees. This award recognizes leaders who “have made significant contributions to our community through their exceptional leadership, sustained dedication, and inspiring achievements.”

RHHD’s own Community Health Nurse Manager, Amy Popovich, was included among these 2024 Honorees. She joins the more than 300 leaders the program has recognized since 1980.

Amy is the Nurse Manager of the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD). During her 14-year career in public health, she has championed the need for a more innovative and equity-driven approach to improving our region’s health. Her work has focused on bringing health and education directly into communities by building relationships with residents and families and inspiring public and private partners to work strategically together towards realizing RHHD’s vision of a thriving, healthy region for all.

RHHD staff concurs with YWCA’s assessment! They offer their own justifications for Amy’s Outstanding Woman Award:

  • “Amy is always able to zoom on the issue at hand and zoom in even faster on the solution. She won’t take “no” for an answer when it stands between her and helping the community. When everyone is thinking about what could be done, Amy is doing it and pulling in all the right people on her team to get it done thoughtfully and equitably—definitely not ‘one day’ but when it’s needed.” Stephanie Mbengue, STI/HIV Prevention Supervisor
  • “Amy is an inspirational leader who shines in her ability to work with partners to support meaningful and equitable change around public health issues. An example of this is her work on school-aged children’s health, where she collaborates with safety-net partners, RHHD team members, other organizations to address evidence-based needs, such as childhood immunizations and physicals.” Virginia Slattum, Community Health Nurse Supervisor
  • “Amy is one of the most compassionate women I have ever worked with. She is truly the best person for this award because she has embodied the true definition of community health, compassion, and care.” Dr. Qadira Stewart, Community Health Worker Supervisor
  • “Amy is human first—she starts most meetings off with a “hey, how are you?” (which is partly why she’s always running late!) Her personal life reflects her passion for investment in people. She’s HIGHLY involved in her East End community, in her church/faith, and in her kiddos. She takes the time to get to know all RHHD staff by name and since she’s been here since 2009, she has decade-long friendships through RHHD and partner organizations. Her projects are about connection and expansion; right now, she’s expanding refugee funding and care by connecting community-based organizations with state agencies and building pathways to permanent care in the East End.” Alex Williams, Clinical and Community Health Services Project Manager

Congratulations to Amy on this well-deserved honor. The RHHD team is grateful for all you do and can’t wait to see what your work accomplishes next!

RHHD in the media: “HIV affects everyone”  

Wednesday, Feb. 7, was National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and to mark the occasion, RHHD took to the news. Dr. Qadira Stewart, RHHD’s Community Health Worker Supervisor, appeared on CBS 6 and NBC12, sharing information about the racial disparities that exist in HIV/AIDS data nationally and in our region. Dr. Stewart highlighted the need for more education, support, and trust building in Black communities—particularly because of legacies of redlining and medical racism in the region—and she also talked about the progress communities have made in connecting people to needed resources like PrEP.

The CBS 6 report also featured information from one of RHHD’s community partners, Nationz Foundation, which focuses on supporting the Greater Richmond LGBTQIA+ community with comprehensive HIV/STI services. PrEP coordinator Troy Kershaw shared that “There have been monumental strides in the work around HIV prevention but there’s still stigma that we’re fighting every single day. And so organizations like Nationz have really strengthened our efforts around prevention and education so that folks understand that there is a guiding light.”

If you or people you know are interested in learning more about PrEP access or other HIV/STI services, check out our STI clinical services site or call 804-205-3501 for a testing appointment.

What’s in a name? Vital Records and public health 

What do Chiefs players Lucas Niang, Willy Gay, and Mike Danna have that Travis Kelce doesn’t? Some of the most popular boys’ names in Virginia!

This week, VDH’s Office of Vital Records announced the top baby names of 2023, including Liam, Noah, William, Lucas, and Michael for boys and Charlotte, Emma, Olivia, and Sophia for girls. The office also notes that July 7, 2023, was the largest single day for births in the commonwealth—we welcomed 332 babies that day!—while August was the month with the largest number of births.

Fun baby name facts are just a small part of what Vital Records staff do. At RHHD, the Vital Records teams maintain certificates of birth, death, marriage, and divorce, and helps community members access these important documents. Business managers Christine Sult and Nora Herrera-Sanchez oversee Vital Records in Henrico and Richmond, respectively. Both say that Vital Records is a critical—and perhaps less familiar—aspect of public health.

“These documents are housed within VDH because the data that makes up these certificates enhances statistical reporting. It’s one of the ways CDC gets information,” Christine explains. She says that birth records can help public health workers understand important data about delivery methods, the ages of parents, and the number of healthy pregnancies.

RHHD’s Vital Records staff print copies of certificates for people who need them. They can also direct residents to the right offices if they need to make changes to those certificates or to use them for things like applying for a driver’s license, accessing SNAP benefits, or transporting a loved one who has passed away out of Virginia.

Nora says that Vital Records Deputy Registrars often interact with people who are in a moment of life transition, high stress, or grief after the loss of a relative. “We have offices at our clinics because we want to be close to the public to provide these services. We’ve also become a bridge for populations who don’t speak English, who face a lot of barriers when a baby is born here.” Christine has also observed challenges for parents trying to file a birth certificate for babies born at home instead of at a hospital.

In each of these cases, having an experienced registrar helping a resident navigate these processes makes all the difference. “RHHD provides wonderful customer service for people who walk in and are looking for birth and death certificates,” Nora says. “Staff show so much compassion, and I’m so proud to work with them—they really know the needs of the public.”

Christine agrees: “Sometimes you’re getting someone who’s having a really hard time, and it’s amazing to be able to provide the resources to help them get closure or accomplish something that surrounds whatever event that it is.” She encourages residents to visit the Office of Vital Records FAQ page to learn more about when certain records become public, how to use records requests to further your genealogical research, and how to request a needed certificate. You can also walk in to RHHD’s Vital Records:

Richmond 
400 E. Cary St., Room 126
804-205-3911

Henrico West  
8600 Dixon Powers Dr.
804-501-4660

Henrico East 
1400 North Laburnum Ave
804-652-3190

It’s me (norovirus!), I’m the problem, it’s me

What’s norovirus? Norovirus is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Anyone can get infected and sick with norovirus. Symptoms include a sudden onset of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. And norovirus spreads if a sick person handles your foods or liquids—people who contract norovirus can remain contagious for a few days after their symptoms stop.

RHHD Epidemiologist Supervisor Louise Lockett Gordon says that we “historically see norovirus increase during the winter months, and this year is no different.” Help prevent norovirus by following these important tips:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, sneezing, coughing, and before and after preparing food. Alcohol rubs are not effective if your hands are soiled—especially with poop or vomit—so make sure to use soap and water. (Need a soundtrack? The chorus to “Shake it Off” is almost exactly 20 seconds!)
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before consuming.
  • Adding oysters or shellfish to your menu? Go with cooked instead of raw options during norovirus season.
  • Clean and disinfect counters and surfaces before guests arrive—use a bleach-based household cleaner.
  • Lay out serving utensils or keep plates of food separate so guests aren’t touching others’ food or drinks with their hands.
  • Encourage people to stay home if they’re currently sick or had symptoms less than 48 hours ago.
  • If your friends or family gets sick after eating the same food or out at a restaurant, report possible contaminated food sources to VDH’s My Meal Detective. The information will help us figure out whether a food needs to be recalled or if there’s an issue at a dining establishment.

Find more information about norovirus and advice for keeping your family safe and sound with VDH’s norovirus fact sheet.

PrEP for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) takes place this year on Wednesday, February 7. The day emphasizes the racial disparities that are still present in HIV/AIDS testing, prevention, and treatment.

This year’s NBHAAD theme is “Engage, Educate, Empower: Uniting to End HIV/AIDS in Black Communities.” The theme resonates for RHHD’s STI/HIV clinical team, who know that more support is necessary to make sure that Black residents can benefit from services like the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) program.

In 2021, 40% of all people living with HIV in the U.S were Black. But Black Americans only made up 14% of the population taking PrEP, a medication that protects people from HIV exposure. RHHD Public Health Nurse Supervisor Cassie Beamon sees a similar discrepancy in populations taking PrEP locally. In Richmond, we know that proximity to resources like clinics and pharmacies, as well as insurance status, are still shaped by histories of redlining and segregation.

Because PrEP medication trials, primary care counseling, and awareness raising have all historically focused on young gay white men, that demographic is overrepresented in United States PrEP data. And while that population is important to reach with this care, Cassie knows that some of the Black patients who would benefit from PrEP—including Black women—aren’t yet coming to receive services at RHHD: “I would definitely like to see more women, because a lot of people think it’s just men who contract HIV.” Cassie’s team addresses some of the challenges residents might face in accessing PrEP:

  • Stigma and education: Patients who come to RHHD for PrEP work closely with our team’s nurses to plan for the PrEP program. Cassie’s seen patients hesitant to take a daily pill because someone might ask why they need it. Part of RHHD’s education work involves removing stigma around PrEP and HIV/STI services. “People should feel encouraged that they’re taking the steps to protect themselves and others, too,” Cassie says.
  • Insurance and cost. Cassie’s team partners with Gilead, an organization that works with under- or uninsured people who need access to PrEP or HIV medications, to reduce this barrier for patients.
  • Proximity to care: Right now, RHHD only offers PrEP at our 400 E. Cary St. location, which can be difficult for patients who need follow-up testing. Fortunately, RHHD partners with community-based organizations like Nationz FoundationMinority Health ConsortiumHealth Brigade, and Planned Parenthood, some of whom even offer mobile testing! Plus, we work with local pharmacies Hope and Bremo to ensure that patients can access medication at convenient locations.

Cassie knows it can be challenging to adjust to a new medication and attend follow-up appointments. The fact that PrEP is an ongoing program, though, “should be part of the appeal. It shows that we’re invested in making sure that this medication is going well for you. We’re checking on things like lab work to make sure everything is going right—you have a partner the whole way.”

RHHD will continue to work with patients and community partners to expand HIV/STI services to our neighbors who need them most. If you want to learn more about available services or need help finding testing, prevention, or treatment options, call RHHD at 804-205-3501.

Radon 101 with Ryan Paris

If you’re not a fan of the cold, know that the winter months are good for at least one thing: they’re the best time of year to test for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer.

Who’s most at risk during radon exposure? And how do we test for radon? Fortunately for us all, VDH has Radon Coordinator Ryan Paris. And with over 24 years in VDH’s Division of Radiological Health, he’s got answers.

Where and how does someone get exposed to radon?  

You can be exposed to high levels of radon inside some homes, schools, or workplaces – especially if they are poorly ventilated. Outdoor radon levels are generally much lower, but this varies by location. You can see if you live in an area that has high potential radon risk by checking out the radon risk map for Virginia on the VDH website.

Are some people more at risk for cancer with radon exposure?  

Any radon exposure carries some risk, and no level of radon exposure is always safe. Smoking is by far the most dangerous behavior that will increase your radon risk. Current smokers have approximately a ten times greater radon risk than never smokers!

How can I test radon levels in my home?  

There are two different types of radon tests – short-term and long-term. A short-term test lasts 2-7 days and should not be performed if severe weather is expected. Powerful storms can sometimes cause temporary high spikes in indoor radon levels.

Most homes show seasonal fluctuation in radon levels. Winter usually yields the highest results and summer the lowest. Your home’s radon levels will also be highest on the ground floor. A wide variety of short-term test kits may be found in hardware stores or online ranging from $10-20. While supplies last, you can purchase short term test kits for $3 at www.vdhradon.org. The best way to confirm an initial borderline short-term test result is to do a long-term test that lasts an entire calendar year. These cost around $25-35 and can be found from an online vendor.

If my test kit shows high levels of radon, what do I do next?  

If you have confirmed test results of 4.0 pCi/L or higher, you should consider mitigating (any process used to reduce radon concentrations) the home. The mitigation system can usually be installed in one day and consists of PVC piping connected to a fan which runs 24/7 to provide suction. This system seeks to draw out the radon gas from beneath your home and vent it outside of anybody’s potential breathing space. Professional radon mitigators and testers who are currently certified according to the VA Code can be found on the websites of the National Radon Safety Board and the National Radon Proficiency Program.

If your test kit does not show high levels of radon, you can take some steps to make sure your home stays that way! Improving ventilation in your home by bringing in more outside air and sealing any foundation cracks will help. Fuel-burning furnaces and exhaust fans create negative air pressure that can draw more radon into the home, so minimize your use of those.

National Radon Action Month ended Jan. 31, but the fight to minimize radon risk continues! Order your test kit from vdhradon.org today. And if you want help reducing your tobacco use—which reduces your risk of radon-related lung cancer, among a multitude of other health benefits—check out our interview with tobacco cessation expert Sarah Birckhead!

Cervical Health Awareness Month

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, which means it’s an important opportunity to review the strategies we have for preventing cervical cancer, starting with screening and vaccination for Human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV is the most common STI in the United States. When it’s not detected or treated, it can cause cancers like cervical cancer. In 2020, CDC reported 11,542 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,272 deaths from cervical cancer. And cervical cancer mortality rates are higher for Black women and women who live further from medical care.

The good news is that cervical cancer can be preventable! Tools like screening programs and the HPV vaccine have led to a 75% decrease in the occurrence of cervical cancer since the 1970s. RHHD Medical Director Dr. Saritha Gomadam reminds residents of the steps they can take to protect themselves and loved ones from cervical cancer.

Get screened.  

“Screening tests can help find precancerous lesions or cervical cancer itself. These tests include a pap smear, which looks for changes in the cervix that could become cervical cancer over time if they aren’t treated, and a specific HPV test, which finds the virus itself. The two tests can be done at the same time in a primary care clinic or a gynecologist’s office.

In the early stages of cervical cancer, not all people have symptoms, and prevention is better than a cure! It can feel a bit uncomfortable to get a pap smear, and what I want people to know is that these screenings are safe procedures that can help us catch and treat precancerous lesions before disease has a chance to spread.

Your primary care provider or gynecologist can help you decide when it’s the right time for a screening.” 

Get vaccinated.  

“Vaccination at a younger age has also been shown to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. Routine HPV vaccination is recommended at 11-12 years of age but can be administred starting at 9 years of age. The best time for HPV immunization is before a person becomes sexually active. This is because HPV is a virus that is transmitted sexually and the vaccine is most effective in people who have not been infected with HPV. The HPV vaccine is offered in most pediatric clincis and other primary care clinics. You can talk to your health care provider or pediatrician for your children about recommendations and obtaining the vaccine.” 

HPV vaccines and screening can be valuable even if you don’t have a cervix.  

In addition to screening and vaccination, other important steps for preventing cervical cancer include using condoms during sex and avoiding smoking.

And people with cervixes aren’t the only people who benefit from HPV screening and vaccination. HPV can lead to other types of cancers, especially if you have tested positive for other sexually transmitted infections.

Cervical health needs to start early; helping one person stay healthy keeps the whole community healthy! For information about RHHD’s cervical health resources and HPV vaccination schedule, call 804-205-3501.

HPV-vax-info

A year at the HEF with Program Officer Saraya Perry

For the past year, the Health Equity Fund has been guided by Program Officer Saraya Perry. Saraya came to the HEF by way of a childhood in Toledo, Ohio; degrees in public, non-profit, and health services administration from the University of Central Florida; and time with various nonprofit and public agencies participating in healthcare related work. Saraya is now moving on to new adventures in Georgia, and the Health Equity Fund is hiring a new Program Officer with an application deadline of Feb. 2.

As she prepares to leave this role, Saraya reflects on the unique approach and impact of the HEF, and the people she’s met advancing health equity across our community. She also offers some advice for those interested in applying for this important position: 

What made the HEF Program Officer position appealing to you?  

This is a position that marries the two worlds of nonprofit partner engagement and the public sector to deliver services to populations most in need. I jumped at the opportunity to apply because I thought it aligned with my educational experience and some of my service-related experience—I got to use what I’ve learned over the years both in the educational environment, and in community spaces. The most exciting part about being involved with the Health Equity Fund was connecting with the Richmond community. I’m not originally from Virginia, and this role has allowed me to learn from community members and organizations who have been providing services for decades. 

As someone who’s lived in lots of different places, what stands out to you about Richmond? What have you learned about this community in your work with the HEF?  

The first word that comes to mind is connection. Richmond is not a tiny city, but it feels like a close-knit community where most of the people that work in public health or equity have also dedicated our personal lives to continuing that work. Because of community connections, no person feels unreachable, and it doesn’t feel like too big of a dream to work across sectors or across community organizations.

And then I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned from the communities that the Health Equity Fund recipients serve is that we don’t know everything, and as a healthcare professional, it’s okay to not know everything. It’s our responsibility to be in tune and listen to the communities to learn about the most effective approaches in delivering needed services and resources.

For example, the HEF funds Sacred Heart Center and part of their work involves promoting vaccine education and outreach. This information is broadcast live on Facebook via the Sacred Heart account, and through two AM/FM radio shows weekly in Spanish: Radio Poder 1380 AM on Wednesday mornings, and Ultra Radio Richmond on 94.1 FM on Friday mornings. Now I don’t personally listen to the radio, so that wouldn’t be an effective approach for me, but Sacred Heart knows their community and they’ve expressed that this is a helpful venue of communicating information. And so it’s okay to detach yourself from whatever the trends say are most effective and really listen to what the population and the community says is most effective for them. 

How does this latest cohort of recipients reflect the HEF’s goals?  

With this cohort and all of the other cohorts that have been announced previously, we are really lucky to be partnered with organizations that have been doing the work for a long time. As Mayor Stoney said at our last press conference, we are a resource to assist these organizations in continuing the work that the community already knows them for.

The four partners that were just announced on Monday do such unique work. In all my years of work in the nonprofit healthcare world and in different places, I’ve never seen some of these structures. I’ve never been familiar with a team like Virginia Prison Birth Project, which has four certified prison Doulas who go into Henrico County Jail and Richmond City Justice Center to provide doula services and perinatal services for birthing people in these justice centers. Another example is Gateway Community Health’s Love Cathedral Education Academy. They add educational and vocational components to their recovery services and they get to provide support to people who either are experiencing substance use disorder or have been impacted by substance use in such a unique way. They’ve created a school environment that also connects people to the social services they need to make it through recovery.

These unique yet effective approaches to addressing disparate health outcomes will ultimately lead to the improvement of health and quality of life amongst the communities served. 

What have been the highlights of your time with the HEF?  

One highlight for me has been working with partners from beginning to the end of the grant cycle. As program officer, a part of my role is managing the entire grant process alongside RHHD and other HEF team members. The HEF team has had the chance to walk several partners through that process from the time that they apply—with information gathering, refining of their scope, submitting to the city for approval—all the way through to fund disbursement so that they’re able to carry out the scope of work they described in their application. Being able to provide a flexible source of funding so that these organizations can do the extraordinary work they do has been amazing to be a part of.

Another highlight has been working with the Community Advisory Committee (CAC)—we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them! The CAC is made up of members that have various jobs: university professors, grants management and public policy professionals, community leaders. They are a diverse group of community members who are dedicated to taking that professional experience, layering it with their lived experience as Richmond residents, and using that combination to shape how we think about investing in work that impacts community health. I think there’s a certain amount of love you have to have for your community to want to carry out that work in both your personal and professional life. So I’m forever grateful for that group, because they add a layer of critical and intentional thought about how to invest Health Equity funds into meaningful work. 

RHPHF is hiring a new Program Officer to learn from you and transition into this new phase of the HEF. What would you want someone who is thinking about applying to know about this job? 

I would want someone applying for the Program Officer role to know that this position requires a great amount of time and project managment skills. As is the nature of a program or project management position, at any point there may be multiple elements to manage simultaneously. I would also want them to know that there is a team of RHHD staff and Foundation Board members there to support along the way, and the work being done is truly collaborative.

Outside of the duties and repsonsibilities of the role, anyone thinking of applying for the position should be passionate about community health, committed to connecting and learning, and excited about contributing to the growth of the Fund and the partnerships that make it all possible. 

What kind of impact do you hope the HEF has made in Richmond five years from now? 

The Health Equity Fund currently functions in a space where collaboration with community members and partner organizations is a priority, and my hope is that this results in strong relationships built on trust and transparency within the Richmond community. In years to come, I hope the Health Equity Fund is seen as more than a funding partner, but as an entity there to support and partner with Richmond’s community-based organizations in more ways than we can imagine.

Investing in health equity

This week, the Health Equity Fund (HEF) announced a new round of funding for “community-based projects that disrupt and challenge the historic inequities in our populations’ health outcomes.”

In 2021, the City of Richmond received $155 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds from the federal government. It invested $5 million in the HEF, only the third example of a public health equity fund across the United States. The HEF is managed by the Richmond and Henrico Public Health Foundation (RHPHF) and directly supports programs and projects that address some of the largest areas of health disparity in the city: COVID-19, mental and behavioral health, food access and security, substance use and recovery, access to care and health education, maternal and infant health, and underlying health conditions.

On Monday, Jan. 22, Mayor Levar Stoney and Councilmembers Ann-Frances Lambert and Katherine Jordan announced a new round of funding for Daily Planet Health ServicesGateway Community HealthUrban Baby Beginnings, and Virginia Prison Birth Project. Renewed funding was also announced for Opportunity, Alliance, and Reentry of RichmondRichmond Behavioral Health Authority, and Waymakers Foundation (want more info on Waymakers? Check out our interview with founder Natasha Lemus from fall 2023!). These partners were identified through a community-based nomination process and through review from a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) made up of residents with lived and professional expertise in health equity work.

Interested in applying for the next round of funding? There will be a new application cycle in 2024 and we’ll share application information in this newsletter. In the meantime, congratulations to these recipients, who represent the important work happening around Richmond to make the city a healthier place for all residents to live!