PHILADELPHIA – May 16, 2022 – Today, Senator Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia), Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia), and House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) hosted a check presentation and press conference at the Dr. Ala Stanford Center for Health Equity (ASHE) in Philadelphia. They presented a $2.8 million check to the Pennsylvania School-Based Health Alliance for behavioral health services in school-based health centers and a $1 million check to the Black Doctors Consortium for health programs assistance and continued growth. The Senate and House Democrats also announced $10 million in available funding for new competitive statewide grant programs, including $5 million for mobile health clinics, $3 million for health equity, and $2 million for trauma-informed care.
Senator Haywood opened the event with a moment of silence for the victims and survivors of a racist mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., on Saturday, which killed 10 people and injured three others. Next, he introduced notable speakers at the press conference, including Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), State Rep. Darisha Parker (D-Philadelphia), Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson, Julie Cousler Emig, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School-Based Health Alliance, and Tracy Wood, Executive Director of the Black Doctors Consortium.
Haywood acknowledged the dedication of health professionals and described his push for equity in the vaccine distribution, as a member of Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. “The health system is broken,” Haywood said. “These grants make some repairs.”
Senator Hughes played a major role in advocating for the ARP funds. “We cannot thank President Biden and Vice-President Harris enough for directing our taxpayer dollars from the federal government to local communities, to make sure that they’re invested in environments like this,” Hughes said. “With these resources, we’re able to step up and drive $13 million into service providers, who know exactly what to do with it.”
The $12.8 million in health equity funding is part of the COVID-19 Public Health Equity Initiative (PHEI), made possible by State Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The PHEI recognizes the impact of the pandemic on medically underserved communities and makes strategic investments to ensure these disproportionately impacted communities have access to public health services. The ARP also funded the $1 million grant for the Black Doctors Consortium. “Today is a critical step in our fight to end the racial disparities in our health care system and ensure everyone has access to the quality, affordable care they need and deserve,” McClinton said. “This is also a great example of the good we can do when we get these critical dollars out of the government vault and into the communities that need it the most.”
Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health spoke about collaboration across entities and the impact of this funding on the state. “Health equity is the number one priority for the Department of Health,” Dr. Denise Johnson said. “Right now, we have an opportunity to learn the lessons from the pandemic and create sustainable change to go forward, making sure that we address and dismantle these disparities.”
Julie Cousler Emig accepted the $2.8 million check on behalf of school-based health centers across the state, including Building 21 Philadelphia, located in Haywood’s district. “Today is truly a historic moment,” Cousler Emig said. “For the first time in 30 years, Pennsylvania is making a direct investment in children’s physical and mental health through school-based health centers. School-based health centers are proven to be the most effective model for decreasing absenteeism and increasing academic achievement. On behalf of the 33 school-based health centers across the Commonwealth, we thank Senators Hughes and Haywood for their leadership in making health equity a priority.”
Tracy Wood and her team of healthcare professionals accepted the $1 million check on behalf of the Black Doctors Consortium. “This grant will allow us to continue our mission.” Wood said. “Although our founder, Dr. Stanford, is not here with us, we will continue to do everything that she set out to do and offer access and health equity to everyone in the city of Philadelphia.”
Senator Street highlighted the neighborhood where ASHE is located. “Today, we stand in North Philadelphia, one of the poorest communities of any major city in America,” Street said. “These are the people I represent. The pandemic only highlighted and compounded the inequities they endure. Government works best when it works for all people. So, the deliberate and aggressive investment in communities (with a legacy of divestment) is the only way that we protect the most vulnerable. I’m proud to join my colleagues in ensuring that these critical investments, especially in health resources, will continue to be made.”
Rep. Parker expressed the importance of elected officials in Harrisburg delivering to the community and identified Dr. Stanford as a beacon of hope. “I’m very proud to be here with my colleagues for a moment like this,” Parker said. “As an African-American woman, I’m proud to say that Dr. Ala Stanford lives in all of us today.”
Dr. Shaneeta Johnson, Professor of Surgery, Senior Fellow of Global Health Equity at Satcher Health Leadership Institute, and Program Director of General Surgery at the Morehouse School of Medicine, is a continued supporter of this initiative. “The ongoing leadership of Senator Haywood, Senator Hughes, and the Pennsylvania legislature, in conjunction with the heart and work of many others, such as the Black Doctors Consortium, is crucial,” Dr. Shaneeta Johnson said. “I am grateful for the role that the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and I have been able to play and the opportunity to impact healthcare and health equity for Pennsylvanians. These grants to address health disparities are a significant stepping-stone and a critical move towards addressing health inequities and providing equal healthcare for all.”
The Senate and House Democrats will work with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to create grant programs for the $10 million in available funding to benefit statewide health care facilities and community-based organizations. Video of the event is available at senatorhaywood.com/video.