Healthy Greenville awards 22 grants that will benefit children, veterans, elderly
At her job as a church secretary in Greenville, Wanda Rivera has health benefits for herself.
But coverage for her four children, who range in age from 11 to 18, would cost another $1,800 a month, or almost half her income.
So when the children need medical care, she takes them to Unity Health on Main, a community health center in downtown Greenville for the under-served and uninsured.
“It’s a blessing to have this place where I can have a little bit of relief on the amount of money as a self-pay patient for my children,” Rivera, 38, told The Greenville News.
“They get good care and it’s affordable for my pocket.”
Renee Duck also uses the center for her three granddaughters who live with her.
“I can’t afford to go to other places because I’m on a fixed income,” said the 62-year-old Greenville woman. “It fits my budget and meets the needs of their patients.”
On Tuesday, Unity Health was one of 22 programs awarded a Healthy Greenville grant to provide community health outreach, expanded mental health counseling and assistance for veterans, among other services.
Healthy Greenville was launched by Greenville Health System — now Prisma Health-Upstate — to provide $4 million in annual grants aimed at making Greenville the healthiest county in the nation.
The program funds organizations that include financially sustainable academic institutions, coalitions or collaboratives, and government agencies.
Healthy Greenville, Too! was developed in response to a bill approved last year that settled a dispute over GHS’s change from a public nonprofit to a private nonprofit entity.
That dispute had some legislators calling for the sale of the hospital and disbursement of the proceeds, which they estimated at between $2 billion and $3 billion, among a variety of governmental, educational and other groups.
The original plan called for a commitment of $4 million a year through 2036, for a total of $80 million. The amended agreement became effective Oct. 1, 2018, and calls for a 34 year initial term, officials said.
Since Healthy Greenville began, it has awarded more than $19 million in grants and is on track to award $136 million by 2052, officials said.
“There are grants that will focus a lot on mental health in our community, and we know that’s one of the pressing challenges we have … to deal with head on and not back down from it,” he said.
“And we’re making sure that areas in our communities that are food deserts and under-served can be served and not just with high-starch or high-sodium options, but some good healthy options,” he added.
“We have some great partners in our community doing this work in such a passionate way. And I hope it empowers those organizations to utilize the funds to leverage more support and funds in order to be more impactful.”
Health care and healthy food
Unity Health will use its $540,000 grant to fund a program that tackles diabetes, hypertension and obesity, executive director Norma Jean Suarez said. It will include a nurse practitioner, a nutritionist and a mental health counselor who are culturally competent, she said.
“A big portion of our patients come from the Berea and White Horse road areas and are predominately Hispanic and African-American,” she said. “The language barrier has been a huge part of some patients not being able to get the services they need.”
The center provides primary care, pediatric care and women’s health services, averaging anywhere from 25 to 40 patients a day, Suarez said. It saw 1,300 patients in its first year who had 4,500 visits, she added.
“There’s been a gap in services for the under-served in the community and for us to have this opportunity is truly a blessing,” she said. “We’re super excited.”
Recovery and support
Also awarded a Healthy Greenville grant was a program that sends recovery coaches into the ERs of three Greenville hospitals to aid people who have overdosed.
The program, run by FAVOR, or Faces and Voices of Recovery, Greenville, now operates at Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital and Bon Secours St. Francis Health System’s Downtown and Eastside campuses.
The grant means it will be able to expand to Prisma Health’s Greer Memorial and Hillcrest Memorial hospitals.
“We commit to the person for a year. That’s what we think is the secret sauce with this program,” said FAVOR executive director Rich Jones.
“We are thrilled to be able to take it to Hillcrest and Greer,” he added. “And we couldn’t do this without this grant.”
Under FAVOR’s program, certified recovery coaches are called to the ER when someone has overdosed. Typically, the patients leave the hospital only to return, Jones said. And 15 percent of them will die within a year from another overdose.
But now, the coaches, who’ve been through recovery themselves, are available 24/7 to meet survivors in the ER with a goal of helping them get clean and prevent another overdose. And the coach is there long-term, calling them, texting them, visiting them — whatever they need to do so they’ll get help.
About 98 percent of patients agree to follow-up with a coach in the program, Jones said, and 65 percent are still actively engaged after a year. Some 70 percent are linked to other services, such as rehab, he added.
Since January 2018, FAVOR coaches have responded to more than 300 patients who have overdosed at the three hospitals, Jones said. They expect to help another 200 at the two new hospitals, he said.
And the program also will expand to other substance use situations as well, such as someone out of control because of alcohol, he said.
“When a person shows up in the ER on an overdose, 15 percent will be dead within a year of another overdose,” he said. “In our case, we’ve only had three. That’s still too many. But to be able to continue to reduce mortality with our program, obviously that’s the most important number.”
Helping children, the elderly and those with mental illness
Also awarded grants were Gateway House, Inc., which got $500,000 over three years toward construction of a new facility that will double its capacity to provide rehabilitation opportunities to adults recovering from serious mental illness; the Taylors Free Medical Clinic, which was awarded $281,340 over three years to increase capacity to more than 5,000 visits a year; and Prisma, which got $100,000 to launch a mobile mammography clinic that address barriers to care and breast cancer prevention.
In addition, $6,250 micro-grants were awarded to:
- A Child’s Haven for its Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds program to increase access to health care and mental health care.
- Bob Jones University’s School of Health Professions for its Healthy Eating and Active Living program to reduce disparities and improve the health of the socioeconomically disadvantaged in the Arcadia Hills community.
- The Center for Educational Equity for its program to reduce the effects of traumatic events on children.
- The International Ballet for a weekly special-needs dance class.
Nutritious meals and saving eyesight
- The Upstate Circle of Friends for its “Can I eat, too” program to provide hot, nutritious meals to children at risk of going hungry.
- Meals on Wheels Greenville for delivery of frozen meals for evenings and weekends for vulnerable people.
- Surgeons for Sight to provide access to vision-saving eye care for impoverished people.
- Sustaining Way to increase access to healthy food and behaviors and reduce utility bills for residents.
- SWITCH for comprehensive supportive services for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
- United Ministries to provide free mental health services to low-income and homeless participants.
Education, shelter and support
- The Urban League of the Upstate for its Urban Girls Rock and Man Cave summer leadership programs.
- And YouthBASE for an after-school and summer program for K5 through second-grade students to help ensure children are grade-level proficient by third grade and that their families foster healthy development.
Finally, a total of $5,000 each was awarded to Safe Harbor Inc. to help purchase land for a new shelter for victims of domestic violence; Upstate Warrior Solution for housing, education and employment to help veterans achieve healthier lifestyles; The Greenville Family Partnership’s “Just Say Something” program for its “Strengthening Families” initiative; Greenville Tech Foundation to improve the community’s dental care by giving students real-world clinical experiences; and Greenville Technical Charter High School for an exercise safety program targeting students interested in health occupations.
To learn more, go to www.ghs.org/healthygreenville/.