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Grant will finance minority health care initiative

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 4, 2012 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Health Department has received a state grant to help provide more services for the county's minority population. And health officials said they will turn to local churches for help in using the money.

The three-year grant, made possible by the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, will provide $126,603 this year.

Health Director Davin Madden said part of the money will be used to hire a wellness coordinator.

The Health Department previously had a similar position, termed a minority health coordinator. Rovonda Freeman served in the capacity from 2008-10. While in the role, she targeted minority churches as a way to reach the people in need. Madden said that will continue.

"Churches (are) one of the most successful vectors because they already have the infrastructure," he said.

The first year of the latest grant will be spent working with eight churches, followed with a different group of eight the second year and still another group of eight the final year, Madden said.

"We have already worked with 10 churches and right now we're working with five churches unfunded (doing a leadership training), and from the new churches we'll mentor," said Evelyn Coley, the department's director of nursing. "Hopefully, in four or five years we will have a lot of people working on these issues."

Madden said he is pleased to get the grant money, especially after having been turned down the previous year.

But he noted that the lapse in funding the program prompted the Health Department staff to widen its scope to include the area's growing Hispanic population.

"We broadened our approach, how we were going to train the wellness facilitators in the churches and also engage our Latino population," Madden said. "We're basically going into eight minority churches -- Latino and African-American -- to establish wellness facilitators.

"The thing that we're trying to do is not just hand people information. We're trying to engage people and actually teach them how to use the information.

"It's all about empowering the community so that they can not only take care of themselves, but be the watchguard for people around them."

Through the grant, which goes into effect in July, the Health Department will also partner with the Cooperative Extension SERVICE and the Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, or WATCH.

Madden said that Cooperative Extension will assist with wellness training, while WATCH will be supporting in funding a nurse practitioner and efforts to improve access to care.

The intent, he said, is to link up proper services and resources for those lacking a primary care provider, Madden said. WATCH will assist in making referrals through churches about how to establish a "medical home" for services, he said.