RHHD announces second round of Health Equity Fund recipients

RHHD ANNOUNCES SECOND ROUND OF HEALTH EQUITY FUND RECIPIENTS

Sept 20, 2022- In October 2021, Richmond City Council voted to establish a first-ever Health Equity Fund (HEF) in the City of Richmond through an initial investment of $5 million from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Today, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) are announcing that $332,000 of this fund will be granted to community organizations to address health disparities. This is the second cohort of community-based projects funded through the HEF; an initial investment of $230,000 was made earlier this summer.

“We can reduce the racial health disparities we see in infant mortality, opioid overdoses, mental health, severe COVID-19 and chronic diseases with close collaboration between government, public health, and community organizations,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “Our investments today in community-based solutions will help ensure we have the best people and tools available to achieve health equity in our great city.”

The organizations newly receiving HEF investments include Daily Planet Health Service, OAR of Richmond, Waymakers, Birth in Color, Healthy Heart Plus, and Urban Baby Beginnings. Combined, these organizations address access to healthcare particularly for those who are underinsured, uninsured, or without housing; supporting those reentering our communities following an incarceration; food access, particularly among Latino and immigrant populations; and access to doula services through workforce development for doulas and payment assistance for patients.

“We are thrilled to continue to support the investments into our community partners,” explains Dr. Elaine Perry, Director of RHHD. “Collaborative partnerships between public health officials and longstanding leaders and changemakers in our city allows us to employ innovative solutions to eradicating health and racial inequities that exist in Richmond and beyond.”

Applications for future HEF investments are currently being reviewed by the Community Advisory Committee (CAC), Richmond and Henrico Public Health Fund (RHPHF), and RHHD.

RHHD will continue to notify the public of future rounds of funding, which will occur through 2024.

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RHHD TO OFFER BIVALENT COVID-19 BOOSTER BEGINNING SEPTEMBER 14TH

RHHD TO OFFER BIVALENT COVID-19 BOOSTER BEGINNING SEPTEMBER 14TH

Sept 2, 2022- With this week’s FDA authorization and CDC recommendation, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts will start offering the new bivalent COVID-19 boosters at our September 14th COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Everyone aged 12 and older is eligible for the new Pfizer booster, and everyone aged 18 and older is eligible for the new Moderna booster. Local pharmacies and primary care physicians across the region may offer booster appointments in the coming days.

The previous COVID-19 vaccines were made to protect against the original variant of COVID-19. Over time, COVID-19 has mutated to create several new variants, some of which are better at escaping immunity from vaccines and previous infections. Bivalent vaccines combine multiple variants of COVID-19 to offer broader protection against these recent variants—specifically, these new boosters will combine components of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 with the current vaccine.

“Similar to how we update the flu vaccine each year to provide the most protection possible, these tweaks to our existing COVID-19 vaccines will give our communities a safe, effective tool to stay healthy this fall.” said Dr. Melissa Viray, Deputy Director of RHHD.

Additionally, as of August 31st, the FDA no longer authorizes the previous COVID-19 boosters (monovalent boosters) for those aged 12 and over. All boosters given moving forward to individuals aged 12 and older will be the new, bivalent formulation. As a result, RHHD will not offer any boosters doses at our September 7 and September 8 clinics as we transition our operations to the new bivalent boosters. People who walk-up or book appointments for boosters at these two clinics will be asked to reschedule for a future date. 

“The new bivalent COVID-19 boosters are yet another important tool in our growing COVID-19 toolbox. We’ve seen a bump in COVID-19 cases each fall as temperatures cool and people start to congregate inside, and these new boosters will provide an additional layer of protection.” said Dr. Elaine Perry, Director of RHHD.

RHHD statement on expansion of monkeypox vax eligibility

August 25, 2022-

STATEMENT FROM DR. ELAINE PERRY ON MONKEYPOX VACCINE ELIGIBILITY EXPANSION

“Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) expanded the eligibility to receive a monkeypox vaccine to align with CDC eligibility criteria. We encourage people who live in our community who have recently become eligible to fill out our vaccine interest form if they would like to receive a vaccine.

I do want to highlight that gay and bisexual men, transwomen, and nonbinary people assigned male at birth who have sex with other people assigned male at birth continue to be most impacted by monkeypox. I say this not to stigmatize, but rather to acknowledge who has carried the most burden throughout this recent monkeypox spread and to emphasize our promise to serve those most impacted with resources.

RHHD is currently working through our prioritization framework to incorporate the newly eligible populations while still getting vaccines to people at highest risk of getting monkeypox or having a severe illness from monkeypox. During this process of adjusting our prioritization and because RHHD continues to see high demand for the monkeypox vaccine, we will continue working through our existing list of people at highest risk first.

We encourage all Richmond and Henrico residents to learn more about monkeypox and its symptoms, discuss monkeypox risk with intimate or sexual partners, seek medical care if you think you may have developed symptoms, and fill out our interest form if you’d like to receive the vaccine and meet eligibility requirements.”

About Richmond and Henrico Health Districts: RHHD are sister public health agencies serving Richmond’s and Henrico’s communities. Our mission is to expose and address the root causes of health disparities, protect health by preventing the spread of disease, and build health equity by partnering with communities and working collaboratively across sectors.

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RHHD LAUNCHES INTEREST FORM FOR MONKEYPOX VACCINES; STARTS VACCINATING ELIGIBLE POPULATIONS

July 20. 2022- After receiving a shipment of about 160 JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccines on July 19, 2022, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) is starting today to vaccinate individuals who may be at higher risk of monkeypox exposure who have not had contact with a known positive case. RHHD is also launching an interest form for individuals in the Richmond and Henrico area to express interest in receiving a monkeypox vaccine. Individuals can fill out the interest form by visiting rhhd.gov/monkeypoxvax or by calling 804-205-3501.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus that causes a rash or lesions and is spread through close person to person contact. As of May 2022, the CDC has reported the disease in several countries that have not historically seen monkeypox cases. Although most, but not all, cases of monkeypox associated with the current 2022 outbreak have been identified in gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men (MSM), anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can get monkeypox if they have close contact with someone infected with the virus. While it’s important to identify which communities are most impacted by a disease for prevention efforts, it is never acceptable to use transmission of a disease to stigmatize or hold biases against a community.

Prior to today, RHHD only offered vaccines as post-exposure prophylaxis to high- and some intermediate-risk close contacts of known monkeypox cases. Vaccines are now beginning to be offered to adults with certain risk factors that increase their likelihood of becoming exposed to monkeypox. RHHD is starting the vaccination process with a few appointments today for high-risk individuals identified through community outreach. Filling out the interest form will add an individual to a list to potentially receive a monkeypox vaccine in the future depending on risk factors and the available supply. Because vaccination supply remains limited, monkeypox vaccination is not guaranteed by filling out the interest form. Examples of individuals who are eligible to get vaccinated include:

● Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and have had multiple or
anonymous sexual partners;
● Transgender women and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with
men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners;
● Sex workers;
● Staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs; and
● People who attend sex-on-premises venues.

“We know that there are many folks in the community who are ready to get vaccinated against monkeypox and we’re eager to vaccinate them,” explains Dr. Melissa Viray, Deputy Director of RHHD. “Thankfully, there were vaccines already developed… we are prioritizing individuals with the highest risk while supply is low, but are hopeful that we’ll continue to get an increasing supply in the coming weeks and months.”

For more information on monkeypox and prevention, visit rhhd.gov/monkeypox or call 804-205-3501.

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VIRGINIA REPORTS ADDITIONAL PRESUMED CASE OF MONKEYPOX

July 14 – Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced a presumed case of monkeypox in a Virginia resident in the Central region of Virginia, bringing the total number of cases in Virginia to 40. Testing was conducted at the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services.

Multiple countries, including the United States, are currently experiencing a monkeypox outbreak. Although anyone of any gender or sexuality can be infected with monkeypox, most cases have occurred in persons who identify as gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men (MSM). Three deaths have been reported globally in this outbreak thus far, but none in the U.S or Virginia. As of July 13, CDC had reported 11,068 cases of monkeypox identified in 65 countries; 1,053 cases were reported in the United States.

This case is the first reported from the Central Region; the case is an adult male resident who recently traveled out of state. The patient is currently isolating. The local health district is identifying close contacts of the case, enrolling them in monitoring, and offering vaccines (if indicated). To protect patient privacy, no further information will be provided.

Monkeypox is a potentially serious viral illness, characterized by a specific type of rash. Rash lesions can begin on the genitals, perianal region, or oral cavity and might be the first or only sign of illness. Co-infection with sexually transmitted infections have been reported. Some patients also have fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and/or swelling of the lymph nodes before developing a rash. Symptoms generally appear six to 14 days after exposure and, for most people, clear up on their own without treatment within two to four weeks. Person-to-person spread occurs with close contact or with direct contact with body fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or linens.

Although there is no treatment approved specifically for monkeypox in the U.S., some treatment options may be beneficial. As with many viral illnesses, treatment mainly involves supportive care and relief of symptoms. For patients who have severe illness or are at high risk of developing severe illness, treatments can be accessed through the federal government with VDH coordination. Two vaccines are also available through the federal government as postexposure prophylaxis for people who had close contact with a person with monkeypox and are at highest risk of exposure.

If you have symptoms consistent with monkeypox, seek medical care from your healthcare provider immediately, especially if you are in one of the following groups:

  • Those who have had contact with someone who had a rash that looks like monkeypox or someone who was diagnosed with monkeypox
  • Those who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity, this includes men who have sex with men
  • Those who traveled to places or attended events where monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the month before symptoms appeared
  • Those who have had contact with household items, such as towels, bedding or clothing, used by a person with suspected or known orthopox or monkeypox virus infection
  • Those who have had contact with a dead or live wild animal or exotic pet from Africa or used a product derived from such animals (e.g., game meat, creams, lotions, powders, etc.)

If you need to seek care, call your healthcare provider first. Let them know you are concerned about possible monkeypox infection so they can take precautions to ensure that others are not exposed. Healthcare providers are reminded to report any suspected cases of monkeypox to their local health department as soon as possible, even if monkeypox testing is conducted at a commercial laboratory. They should also implement appropriate infection prevention precautions.

The federal government is expanding monkeypox vaccination access for individuals at risk and working to make testing more convenient for healthcare providers and patients across the country. VDH is actively working with our federal partners to make these services more accessible for Virginians.

Monkeypox cases have been identified in all regions of the state; additional cases will be posted on the VDH website. For more information, visit the VDH websiteCDC website, and the World Health Organization website.

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RHHD ONE WEEK INTO ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS FOR THE HEALTH EQUITY FUND

June 24, 2022- One week after the form to nominate community based projects to receive support from the Health Equity Fund (HEF) launched, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) has received fifty-one nominations. RHHD continues to encourage community members and organizations to nominate grassroots projects aimed at reducing health disparities in Richmond’s communities at rhhd.gov/hef through July 28, 2022.

In October 2021, Richmond City Council voted to establish a first-ever Health Equity Fund (HEF) in the City of Richmond through an initial investment of $5 million from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Earlier this month, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) announced that $230,000 in initial investments were granted to community organizations to address health disparities.

The short nomination form alerts RHHD to innovative, community-based projects aimed at reducing health disparities. After a project is nominated, RHHD reaches out to the main point of contact to gather more information about the project. The projects will then be reviewed by RHHD’s community advisory committee (CAC), which is a group of people who have relevant professional or personal experiences with health disparities. Selected projects then work with RHHD to develop work and funding plans.

Nominees should have capacity to engage in new projects or expand existing work to better promote health equity and racial justice and address health disparities in Richmond. The disparity areas of focus defined by the City Administration and City Council for the HEF include: COVID-19, mental health, substance use and recovery, maternal child health, food access and security, access to care and health education, and underlying conditions.

“It’s really exciting for us to see this process come to life and to see nominations roll in,” says Hannah Quigley, Food Access Specialist. “We’ve tried to be intentional in creating a simple funding process that centers racial equity and community voices in every step of the process… we’ve seen some great projects get nominated and are continuing to invite community members to help us learn about all the good work happening in our communities.”

RHHD will continue to notify the public of future rounds of nominations and funding, which will occur through 2024.

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RHHD EXPANDS COVID-19 CONTACT CENTER TO INCLUDE OTHER PUBLIC HEALTH TOPICS

June 16th, 2022- In 2020, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) launched the COVID-19 call center and hotline number 804-205-3501 to be a resource to individuals requesting information about COVID-19. The newly named RHHD contact center is expanding the topics staff are trained on to expand its services beyond COVID-19. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the contact center has been a valuable resource to community members and has provided an array of information as it has become available. For example, the contact center provided information on mitigation and prevention guidance, registered individuals for COVID-19 vaccination appointments, connected individuals to testing opportunities, and so much more.

“The contact center has been particularly helpful for our community members who prefer to speak with a person rather than to navigate a website,” explains Amy Popovich, Nurse Manager at RHHD. “It also is one of several ways we get to connect with community members one on one, which is so important to us to build trust and rapport with our communities while delivering information with compassion.” 

As of today, the contact center is expanding beyond answering COVID-19 questions to include other public health topics. Specifically, contact center staff have been trained on assisting immigrants and refugees on staying up to date on immunizations and getting screened for communicable diseases. Also, contact center staff have been trained to answer general questions on Monkeypox and how to connect individuals to epidemiological or clinical resources if needed.

“I’ve always been proud of our staff’s ability to serve our communities in creative and innovative ways,” explains Dr. Melissa Viray. “RHHD experienced so much growth throughout the pandemic and created new systems and programming to better serve our communities. We’ve taken a step back to see which of those services make sense to start incorporating into our everyday work and the contact center was an obvious choice.” 

Individuals with questions on anything related to COVID-19, Monkeypox, or refugee/immigrant health services are welcome to call 804-205-3501.

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RHHD ANNOUNCES INITIAL RECIPIENTS OF HEALTH EQUITY FUND

June 9, 2022- In October 2021, Richmond City Council voted to establish a first-ever Health Equity Fund (HEF) in the City of Richmond through an initial investment of $5 million from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Today, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) are announcing that a total of $230,000 will be granted to community organizations to address health disparities. RHHD are also announcing the nomination process to fund additional organizations and community leaders will start next week on June 16th, 2022.

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our residents, and I’m proud the City of Richmond was able to dedicate $5 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding to this innovative public health initiative,” says Mayor Levar Stoney. “I applaud RHHD for recognizing the positive impact grassroots work can have on community resilience to public health crises like COVID-19 or the opioid epidemic, which disproportionately impact our low-income residents and communities of color.”

The three organizations receiving initial rounds of investment include Crossover Healthcare Ministry, Nolef Turns, and Richmond and Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA). These organizations have worked closely in communities prior to and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic addressing access to healthcare, support for those returning from incarceration to include substance use recovery, and mental and behavioral healthcare, respectively.

Specifically, the funding will be allocated as follows:

  • $50,000 to Crossover Healthcare Ministry to provide additional bilingual medical assistance and increase capacity

  • $90,000 to Nolef Turns to provide crisis and transitional shelter assistance to Richmond residents returning from incarceration with an increased likelihood of engaging in substance use

  • $90,000 to Richmond Behavioral Health Authority to provide clinical mental health services in two to three of RHHD’s satellite Resource Center clinics located in public housing and lower income communities

“Crossover Healthcare Ministry, Nolef Turns, and Richmond Behavioral Authority have offered a tremendous amount of services to our communities,” explains Dr. Cynthia Newbille. “Investments into these dedicated organizations are a direct investment into the wellbeing of our communities.”

“We are both excited to provide funding assistance to these specific programs with these organizational partners and more broadly for the potential the HEF holds to fund future projects,” explains Ruth Morrison, Policy Director at RHHD. “For future investments of the HEF, we know communities know best what they need and what initiatives and organizations they trust so we encourage folks to nominate organizations or leaders they’re familiar with and for those folks to self-nominate themselves… we’re looking forward to the process of working with the community advisory committee to address pressing public health issues in our communities.”

HEF investments will continue to be announced and RHHD will soon accept nominations for nonprofits, community organizations, and individual community leaders to receive new funding. Nominees should have capacity to engage in new projects or expand existing work to better promote health equity and racial justice and address health disparities in Richmond. The disparity areas of focus defined by the City Administration and City Council for the HEF include: COVID-19, mental health, substance use and recovery, maternal child health, food access and security, access to care and health education, and underlying conditions. Nominations will be reviewed by RHHD’s community advisory committee. The nomination process will open on June 16, 2022 and close on July 14, 2022. For more information, visit rhhd.gov/hef.

RHHD will continue to notify the public of future rounds of nominations and funding, which will occur through 2024.

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RHHD CELEBRATES RESOURCE CENTERS’ THIRTEEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY

June 1, 2022- In 2009, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) opened its Resource Center in Fairfield Court. Today, RHHD celebrates its eight Resource Centers located in all of Richmond’s public housing communities, Broad Rock Community Center, and Southwood Apartments.

Resource Centers are satellite health clinics with a variety of clinical services including cancer screenings, chronic disease screening and management, STI testing and treatment, and more. The Resource Centers are staffed with Community Health Workers (CHWs), who are peer health educators, counselors, and advocates.

“Over the past thirteen years, the Resource Centers have developed strong roots in their communities,” says Amy Popovich, Nurse Manager for RHHD and founder of the program. “I’m so grateful to the community for helping us build this resource. Whether that’s visiting and utilizing the Resource Centers, sharing which services are most valuable, volunteering at the centers and even serving as Community Health Workers… it’s been a collaborative effort and we’re so thankful to the communities for partnering with us.”

“I’ve loved being a part of Mosby Resource Center and connecting with people who live here,” explains Alante Cannon, Community Health Worker. “I’ve been able to have real relationships with residents here… it’s been great for all of us to experience growth together.”

The Resource Centers are celebrating their anniversaries with community block parties this summer that feature connections to community resources, COVID-19 prevention services, food, music, and festivities. Many of the Resource Centers are opening their doors with services following a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anyone interested in making an appointment or getting connected to a resource center can visit rhhd.gov/rc or call 804-205-3501.

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Richmond and Henrico enter into high COVID-19 level

RICHMOND AND HENRICO ENTER INTO HIGH CDC COVID-19 COMMUNITY LEVEL

May 27, 2022- The CDC reported Richmond City and Henrico County as both having moved to the high COVID-19 community level. This comes two weeks after Henrico County and one week after Richmond City moved into medium levels.

The CDC’s COVID-19 community level is a tool to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used for COVID-19, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.

Based on CDC guidance for individuals who live in an area with high COVID-19 community level, RHHD recommends everyone who lives, works, or spends time in Richmond or Henrico  wear a mask indoors in public (regardless of vaccination status), stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, improve ventilation in indoor spaces, and follow CDC recommendations for isolation or quarantine if sick or exposed. Individuals who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness should wear a mask that provides greater protection, consider avoiding non-essential activities in public, and talk to their healthcare provider about whether they are a candidate for treatments. People who have a household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease should consider wearing a mask when indoors around them and getting tested before seeing them.

RHHD also continues to recommend everyone keep several at-home tests in their home in case it’s needed. Individuals can request free tests at covidtests.gov, purchase a test at a pharmacy and submit a claim to their insurance, or pick up a free COVID-19 home test at some Richmond Public Library locations (Broad Rock, East End, Ginter Park, Main Library, and North Ave). RHHD is also increasing the availability of free COVID-19 PCR test events to meet a potential increased demand; visit rchd.com for more information on testing.

“For any folks who have taken a break from indoor mask wearing during times of low and medium COVID-19 levels, now is the time to break out those masks from the drawer and make sure to stay diligent about wearing it in indoor places,” explains Dr. Viray, Acting Director at RHHD. “Mask wearing alongside vaccinations and staying home when sick will help us stay as safe as possible during this wave of higher COVID-19 levels.”

“We wear masks to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe… it can save a life,” explains Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “Richmond residents, let’s make smart choices given where the COVID-19 levels are in our community. Let’s do our part to stay safe during this wave of the pandemic.”

About Richmond and Henrico Health Districts: RHHD are sister public health agencies serving Richmond’s and Henrico’s communities. Our mission is to expose and address the root causes of health disparities, protect health by preventing the spread of disease, and build health equity by partnering with communities and working collaboratively across sectors.

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