Torres announces new funding for Bronx health centers for COVID vaccines & care

Congressman Ritchie Torres announces announced that eight community health centers located in the Bronx will receive federal funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan
Photos by Jason Cohen

Bronx residents struggle with health care and battle diseases like asthma and diabetes, but the pandemic has only exacerbated these problems.

However, on April 9, Congressman Ritchie Torres announced that eight community health centers located in the Bronx will receive federal funding from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan totaling almost $69 million to support COVID-19 vaccination services, deliver preventive and primary health care services and expand health centers’ operational capacity, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units.

Seven of the eight health centers were also invited to participate in Biden’s Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program, which will provide a direct supply of vaccines to the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities.

The facilities are: Urban Health Plan, Inc., $17,060,750, Montefiore Medical Center, $1,859,000, Bronx Community Health Network, Inc., $16,116,750, Bronx Health Integrated Services, Inc., $15,077,000, La Casa de Salud Inc, $1,387,875, Morris Heights Health Center, Inc., $10,663,000, Union Community Health Center, Inc., $5,786,875 and Vocational Instruction Project Community Services, Inc., $877,125.

“The workers you represent put their lives at risk during the peak of the pandemic so the rest of the city could shelter in place,” Torres said. “We owe you a huge debt of gratitude.”

Torres pointed out that the coronavirus has exposed the systemic racism in America. According to the CDC, as of April 16, race/ethnicity was known for just over half of the people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, 65 % were white, 11% were Hispanic, 8% were Black and 5% were Asian.

There is even a disparity amongst the boroughs as 44 % of Manhattan has been vaccinated, compared to only 31 % of the Bronx.

According to Torres, the hope is this money from the American Rescue Plan will help community health centers in the borough vaccinate more people.

“The question that confronts us as policy makers is how do we resolve the vaccination gap”? he asked. “How do we reach the communities that are hardest to reach?”

He stressed how important these community health centers are. Many Bronx residents do not have insurance or the money to go to a hospital, so are comfortable there, he explained.

Now this will empower the health centers and allow vaccinations to be equitable.

Urban Health CEO Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez and Doug York, CEO of Union Community Health Center, Inc. praised Torres and the government for stepping up and helping community health centers.

Urban Health CEO Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez

“Today is a special day,” Izquierdo-Hernandez said. “We are the recipient of money that will allow health care centers to move forward and help vaccinate thousands.”

She explained that many people think doing vaccinations are a simple process. But, it is much more than that.

Now, with this financial assistance, Urban can rehire staff and open up other sites that will solely be used for vaccinations. The hope is to vaccinate 8,000 people a week.

York recalled how when Torres first began his political career as a councilman he would visit Union Community Health and got to know the staff and clients.

Union Community has been in the Bronx for a century and the hope is this money will help it last another 100 years.

“The American Rescue Plan could not have come at a more crucial time in the history of qualified health centers,” he said. “This is a safety system for tens of millions of patients around the country who cannot access affordable high quality health care.”

Doug York, CEO of Union Community Health Center, Inc.